Let’s Talk Books — The Pact by Jodi Picoult

Warning: Spoilers!

I don’t run into many people that read a lot, let alone people that can recommend a book or author that not only do they like, but think I will like. So naturally I was pleased when someone told me about an author I’d never read, Jodi Picoult, and some of the books she’s written that sounded interesting to me. I wrote a bunch of them down and added them to my reading list, and kept an eye out for one in particular whenever I visited the library. And that’s today’s book, The Pact.

Unfortunately, I never saw The Pact at the library. I could have picked any other book by Jodi Picoult instead, but considering the premise of this book, I really wanted my first impressions of this author to be from this particular book. Luckily, a friend of mine just finished reading it and was nice enough to let me borrow it.

The Pact is about a supposed suicide pact between two high school students, Chris and Emily. Emily dies, but Chris is held in jail because the police think he murdered Emily. Chris and Emily have also been friends forΒ  all of their lives and, after middle school, lovers. Not only do I think the premise is interesting, but those of you that have followed me for a long time know I struggle with depression and am particularly interested in stories involving depression.

Unfortunately, The Pact wasn’t quite what I was expecting. I sort of had my doubts when I looked at the cover; it kind of had a Nicholas Sparks vibe to it and I was sort of wondering if this was going to be more melodrama than realistic. Seeing “a love story” underneath the title also raised a red flag for me. I seriously hoped this wasn’t going to be a book that romanticized depression and suicide.

First though, more about the plot. The book opens with four people gathering at a restaurant for dinner. We can tell immediately that they get along well and meet up fairly often. These are the parents of Chris and Emily. Surprisingly, they’re just as much, if not more, main characters than Chris and Emily. And I don’t want to start off negatively right away, but it took me a good fifty or sixty pages to even tell these people apart. None of them have much in terms of personality (no one in this book does, really), and perspectives will jump around quickly and randomly. So for the sake of quick reference for whoever wants it, here’s a simple chart of the characters and their relationships.

James (father) + Gus (mother) –> Chris (son)

Michael (father) + Melanie (mother) –> Emily (daughter)

I know I must look pretty stupid for not being able to juggle four characters, but when they’re all introduced at once and the only identifiable trait of each of them is “parent,” and the perspective of the story changes as often as it does so early, it legitimately confused me.

Anyway, moving on — the four parents have their dinner and return home. Late at night, they get a call from the hospital. Their kids were brought there, and when they arrive they learn Emily is dead from a gunshot to the head and Chris had to get stitches for something. Everyone is naturally upset, I guess even more so because Chris’ family and Emily’s family have been neighbors and friends since the kids were born and they all look at each other as one family.

Chris reluctantly explains that he and Emily were planning to kill themselves that night, but for whatever reason Chris didn’t. This eventually leads to the police suspecting and finally arresting Chris for murdering Emily. Melanie, Emily’s mother, declares her hatred for James, Gus, and Chris. James is embarrassed because his son is suicidal and a criminal and believes their family name is tarnished, so he tries to ignore the situation for most of the book.

Gus and Michael are the only two parents that seem to be handling anything maturely at all. I don’t want to imply there’s a wrong way to react to this sort of situation, but the book obviously wants to set up James and Melanie as the antagonists of the story and Gus and Michael as sympathetic. They’re grief-stricken, but at least they’re trying to deal with the situation and discover what really happened.

I don’t want to say not much happens afterwards; it’s more like there’s not a lot of critical scenes. Chris’ lawyer interviews several characters. Melanie seems to slowly lose her sanity, even going to far as to destroying evidence that would suggest Chris wasn’t guilty. We see Chris get used to prison life. The two families run into each other several times and create more drama.

We also see several chapters focused on the past, highlighting moments from Chris and Emily’s childhood up until the night she died. We find out that as a kid, she was molested by a fast food employee when she went into the boys’ bathroom as a dare by Chris. This affected her willingness and enjoyment of sex with Chris after they started dating. Chris also pressured her into having sex before she was ready many times, resulting in even more stress for her. (As a side note, Chris himself is kind of an asshole in general. For someone that’s supposedly in love with Emily, he doesn’t even take her seriously when she tells him she wants to kill herself the first two times. I think he literally laughs the first time she tells him.) She felt stress from everyone, who expected her to be perfect, and she began to feel more and more worthless as time went on. When she finds out she’s pregnant, she starts developing her suicidal feelings.

Eventually, Chris’ court date approaches. I’m not a huge courtroom drama nut or anything, but I do love getting swept up in a good one. This was easily the best part of the book for me because of that. Anyway, the defense and prosecutor go back and forth for 100 pages or so and eventually Chris is pronounced not guilty. He goes back home, Emily’s parents move across town, and… that’s kind of it.

I wasn’t expecting a satisfying ending. The death of Emily, destroying both Chris and the two sets of parents’ lives, pretty much guaranteed that. The book’s main conflict unexpectedly focused on proving Chris’ innocence. But the problem with that is that he’s either guilty and spends the rest of his life in jail, or he’s innocent and… well, everything’s still tainted. There’s this half-assed “glimmer of hope for the future” thing to close out the book, but overall I thought the ending was pretty boring. At least the courtroom stuff was entertaining enough to make up for it.

Honestly, I hated the beginning of this book. Between trying to keep track of the parents (who didn’t have a lot going on personality-wise except for “parent”) and… I don’t know. Something else I can’t pinpoint? Between those things, the beginning really dragged for me. It took me almost a week to force myself through 50 pages.

But once I sat down and really started to dedicate time to it, I got more invested. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of melodramatic moments for most of the book; scenes will end in a way that feel like the end of an episode of an ABC Family drama, like their only purpose was to create temporary drama that ultimately had nothing to do with anything. For example, one of the prisoners is built up like he’s going to be a great obstacle for Chris to overcome in prison, but it doesn’t really go anywhere. The molestation scene I mentioned earlier is never brought up again, and I was really anticipating it to play more of a role in the story but unfortunately it ended up feeling like a shock value scene. Chris’ mother and Emily’s father start to form feelings for each other when they begin meeting in secret and sort of start an affair, but this too leads to nothing and I have to wonder what the point of anything was.

Ultimately, though, I think the most disappointing thing about The Pact is that it puts the subject matter of depression and suicide on the back burner while the drama with the parents takes up most of the book. I was actually pretty disgusted with the way the parents made this entire situation and book about themselves. Emily’s story would have been great if that’s all this book was. It could have really shown the trauma and effects feeling depressed and suicidal can leave a person. But the book was more about the parents and what they were going through rather than the suicidal daughter and how she felt. Which… I don’t know. Maybe if it was advertised more like that I wouldn’t be as disappointed, but I was really expecting this to be more about Chris and Emily.

The Pact wasn’t bad, but I honestly couldn’t really recommend it. The writing isn’t terrible, there’s just a lot of unnecessary scenes and pointless drama to not make it feel worth the time. If it was shorter I could maybe see it as a guilty pleasure of sorts, but at close to 400 pages I was expecting something more concrete.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you’re having a great week! πŸ™‚

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Info for my edition of The Pact:

Published 2002 by Harper Perennial

Paperback, 394 pages

ISBN 978-0-688-17052-3

 

 

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New Perler bead art! (Undertale)

Warning: Undertale spoilers, I guess

Hi everyone! I didn’t get to finish the book I wanted to talk about this week, so instead I’m going to share more Perler bead art I’ve been working on for the past couple of months. And this time, it’s all Undertale related.

I’d be willing to bet that even if you’re not into video games, some of you have probably run into something Undertale-related on the internet. It became insanely popular last year and if you didn’t see a shitload of praise for the game, then you probably saw a ton of hate or criticism. Personally, I love the game. It’s still stuck in my head even months after I played it. I can see how it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I think most of the hate for Undertale comes from the overwhelming amount of praise and fandom people run into on the internet. Too much of a good thing can always sour someone’s experience, after all.

Anyway, after making a bunch of complicated projects for my friends I was really looking forward to something simpler. Undertale has pretty simple graphics; I guess it’s something between what you’d expect from an NES and SNES game. I was in the mood for simple and still had Undertale stuck in my head, so I just started making them.

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I started off with Sans and Papyrus because, well… c’mon. They’re Sans and Papyrus. They’re one of the best parts of the game. When I didn’t know anything about Undertale and first checked out someone playing it, Sans and Papyrus’ banter after the first area was the point I realized I would really like this game. Papyrus is deluded with ideas of grandeur and wants to join the royal guard, while his brother Sans slacks off and doesn’t take anything too seriously. They’re both supposed to capture any humans that fall into the Underground (i.e., you), but Papyrus is the only one really trying. He enthusiastically leaves simple puzzles to block your path while trying his best not to solve them for you. They become pretty good friends after a while… if you let them, anyway.

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I also made Temmie, one of the random enemies/NPCs. Temmie is an adorable, derpy dog/cat thing. Most of them don’t speak particularly well, but I find them adorable all the same. The one running the shop in the secret Temmie Village is trying to save “muns” so she can go to “cooleg.” πŸ™‚

Something I didn’t know until after I finished the game was that this character is based off of Temmie Chang, one of the character designers and artists that worked on Undertale. I think it’s really cool she got to include herself in the game like this. I think it shows a nice appreciation for her work. πŸ™‚

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After that initial batch, I kind of decided I wanted to make all the characters at some point. So next up is Toriel, aka “Goat Mom.” She’s the sweet woman that finds you after you fall into the Underground and adopts you. She leads you through the Ruins, solving puzzles for you in an attempt to protect you. She’s very sweet and motherly, and the music that plays when you reach her home is incredibly relaxing. Go look up “Home” from the Undertale soundtrack on YouTube if you’re curious. This Perler piece is of Toriel reading in her chair by the fire, something I thought would look very appropriate hanging above my bookcase. πŸ™‚

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The last character I made was Flowey, and as you can probably tell, this isn’t the only Perler piece I made of a character’s boss fight. Flowey is a particularly interesting character in the context of Undertale’s story. In a game that treats each particular playthrough as its own timeline, Flowey is the only character (other than Sans) that’s aware of each timeline. He breaks the fourth wall in this way, and even talks about it with you.

Flowey was the smallest of these pieces representing Undertale’s battle sprites, but he still took up the better part of a 2×2 grid of pegboards. He ironed fairly well, but the others took a bit more time.

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And of course, Sans and Papyrus. By the way, sorry that some of these photos are of the projects tacked up on my wall. I kind of forgot to take pictures for some of them on the counter I usually use and didn’t feel like taking them down. πŸ˜›

Anyway, Sans was okay. Since battles sprites are mostly black and white, fusing the beads was interesting. Normally black is easy to fuse and white is hard, but since the entire projects are just black and white they fused more easily than I thought. Sans took up a 2×3 grid of pegboards, so I fused three sections (2×1 each) and then fused those together (since I’ve found bigger projects to fail fusing properly if done all at once).

Papyrus is a pretty lanky dude with a pose I can’t help but fall in love with every time I look at him. There’s a lot of white here, and even with the black beads surrounding them I had some trouble fusing everything together. Papyrus took up 10 pegboards and had to be ironed in several different sections until he came together, and even after he still feels a little flimsy because of how thin he is in certain places. But in the end he’s definitely one of my favorite pieces, possibly my biggest to date.

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Toriel is about as big as Papyrus, but considering her shape I used the same fusing methods as I did with Sans. It took a particularly long time to fill in all the black beads on her muumuu. I ended up trying to make small random patterns out of the black beads just to help beat the mundane nature of filling it all in.

One thing I’m not sure of is why Toriel has red eyes. I thought it might have been a mistake on her sprite sheet, but I looked at a video of the fight against her and they’re there. I think it’s a nice touch of color, but does anyone know why it’s like this?

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And of course… Temmie. :3

Thanks for reading, everyone! Hope you’re all having a great, creative week! πŸ™‚

Let’s Talk Books — Kafka On the Shore by Haruki Murakami

Warning: Spoilers!

One of my friends recently lent me a book that sounded interesting, although I can’t remember what she said that made me want to read it. I only remember thinking that it was something I would like to borrow from her when she finished it, and well… here we are.

Kafka On the Shore is definitely one of the stranger books I’ve read this year, and also one of the few books that have stood out to me lately. I can’t exactly sum up what made it so special in a few sentences; this was a pretty surreal story that’s difficult to talk about. I wasn’t even sure if I was going to attempt making a post about it, but I’m trying to get my upload schedule back on track so I decided to make an attempt at sharing my feelings about this book.

I guess a basic plot summary is a good place to start. Kafka On the Shore starts out with Kafka, who just turned fifteen, running away from home. We learn he lives alone with his father, who he can’t stand, and that he used to have a mother and adopted sister living with them until they both left without a trace one day. While on a bus, he befriends an older girl named Sakura. After a bit of conversing, she decides that fate crossed their paths and gives Kafka her phone number, encouraging him to call her if he runs into any problems.

One evening, Kafka loses consciousness and wakes up covered in blood. Unsure of what to do or where to go, he calls Sakura and crashes at her apartment. He tells her about how his mother and sister left, and coincidentally Sakura is a possible match for his potential sister (although Sakura herself says her past and his past don’t match up). He can’t sleep, so naturally Sakura invites him into her bed and gives him a handjob. She won’t have sex with him, though, because she has a boyfriend. Not sure why a handjob’s okay in that situation and sex isn’t, but what the hell do I know. Also don’t know why Sakura tells Kafka she wishes she was his sister after the fact.

Kafka leaves in the morning and eventually stumbles upon the Komura Memorial Library, a private library open to the public and home to many rare books. Kafka takes an immediate attraction to the place and spends a couple of days reading while he figures out what his next move is. He becomes friendly with the sole employee of the library (other than the owner), Oshima, and the two become fast friends. After learning a little bit about Kafka’s situation, Oshima offers him a job at the library as well as its spare room to use as residence. But he needs to talk with the owner, Miss Saeki, first. So in the meantime, Oshima drives Kafka to his family’s cabin in the woods. It’s a couple of hours away and secluded from civilization, perfect for Kafka to read and think without people disturbing him.

Kafka isn’t the only character we follow, however. Each chapter switches between Kafka and an elderly, mentally disabled man named Nakata. At first we only get reports on what happened to Nakata as a child: while on a school trip during World War II, an unknown sensation caused all the children in his class to lose consciousness and unfortunately, Nakata was the only one that awoke without keeping his ability to read and function as well as he should compared to his peers.

Eventually we get to a chapter that features Nakata during the present, while the events with Kafka are taking place. Despite his limitations, Nakata did come out of his childhood incident with an unusual gift: he could speak with cats. While he gets a subsidy from the governor to cover his living expenses, he also locates missing cats for some extra cash. He keeps the fact he can talk with them a secret (he feels like other people think of him as dumb enough without that crazy claim), but his clients like him and are pleased when he brings the cats back to them.

Nakata is searching for a family’s cat when he learns that someone in the area has been kidnapping strays. Nakata fears the cat he’s looking for may have fallen victim to this person’s evil deeds and waits around the area where cats have been known to disappear. A dog eventually appears and tells Nakata to follow him back to his master’s house. When he arrives, he meets a man that goes by the alias Johnnie Walker (yes, like the whisky). Johnnie Walker explains to Nakata that he’s collecting cat souls to make some kind of… flute? For… reasons? Unfortunately, this is where some of the more surreal aspects of the story start to unfold. We’re never given a clear answer about who or what Johnnie Walker is, or what his intentions are. There’s an implication that he may actually be Kafka’s father, but even that’s ambiguous.

In the end, I suppose it doesn’t really matter. Johnnie Walker gives Nakata an ultimatum: he’s going to kill and dissect the cats he’s recently collected in front of Nakata, including the cat that Nakata’s searching for, until Nakata kills Johnnie Walker. Nakata’s doesn’t feel like he’s capable of killing another person, so unfortunately he witnesses Johnnie Walker’s killings one by one until Nakata loses his cool and kills him. As a lover of cats, I can say this was easily the hardest part of the book to get through. Like the rest of the book, it’s littered with elongated descriptions. If you’re a cat or animal lover, or even just squeamish, be prepared if you decide to read this. It’s only one part, but still… I love cats and prefer not to be unprepared for cat mutilation. 😦

The story switches back and forth every chapter, and the two main characters go on their own journeys that seem like they should intersect at some point, especially because there’s some implication that Kafka and Nakata are two parts of the same soul or something vague and mysterious like that, but they never do. Kafka eventually meets the owner of the Komura Memorial Library, Miss Saeki. An older woman (I think in her fifties?), she lost her boyfriend during college due to an act of violence, disappeared in despair, and returned one day to take over his family’s library. She doesn’t like to talk about herself or her past. In fact, we only find out anything about her through Oshima confiding in Kafka. She also produced an album called Kafka On the Shore, which Kafka finds and loves. An apparition of a fifteen year old Miss Saeki appears at night in his room, and he falls in love with both her and the middle aged Miss Saeki. He ends up having sex with both of them because… well, I’m not really too sure. Just another strange part of the book, I guess. And like Sakura, it’s implied that Miss Saeki is related to Kafka. So in addition to sister-brother sex (sort of), we have mother-son sex. I’m sort of wondering if Haruki Murakami intended these events to act like a “becoming one with someone” sort of thing, maybe representing his sister and mother returning back to his life and filling the voids they’ve left, but in the end it still just comes off as incest to me.

Meanwhile, Nakata loses his ability to talk with cats (something I would personally find to be devastating, but Nakata seems pretty indifferent towards it). He confesses to the police that he murdered Johnnie Walker, but due to Nakata’s odd mannerisms and poor communication, the officer he confides in doesn’t take him seriously. Nakata hitchhikes across Japan looking for something, going on a pure gut instinct that he’s supposed to look for an unknown thing for an unknown purpose and that he’ll know what it is and what he has to do when he finds it. He eventually befriends a trucker named Hoshino, who takes a real liking to Nakata because he reminds him of his deceased grandfather. Hoshino’s a little rough around the edges, but he seems like a pretty nice guy.

Honestly, I found the parts of the book with Nakata and Hoshino bantering to be the most interesting. Not that Kafka’s story wasn’t appealing, but I kept finding myself excited to see what would happen next with Nakata and Hoshino and a little disappointed when the chapter ended and I’d have to go back to Kafka.

Hoshino eventually runs into some kind of pimp named Colonel Sanders (yes, like the KFC guy), who helps him find this big… rock, I guess? He helps Hoshino find this big rock called the entrance stone and brings it back to Nakata. Nakata has a revelation that he’s supposed to open the entrance stone. Whatever that means. After struggling with it, Hoshino manages to flip it over and that does the trick, I guess. Then he has to wait for something else to happen to close it back up.

Nakata eventually finds the place he’s looking for, which turns out to be the Komura Memorial Library. And no, Kafka’s not there. The police keep nosing around looking for him, because a) he ran away from home and b) his father died shortly after he left (hinted but not confirmed to be Johnnie Walker). So Hoshino drives Kafka back to the cabin to lay low for a while, and… well, things get even more surreal from here.

Kafka finds two soldiers from World War II in the woods, and they lead him to some strange community of… I’m not sure. Ghosts of past selves, maybe? The only person we see Kafka interact with is the fifteen year old Miss Saeki, who chats with him a bit but explains nothing about what’s happening. Kafka initially wants to stay but after talking with this version of Miss Saeki, he decides he wants to go back to his old world.

While this is going on, Nakata meets Miss Saeki. She asks him to take the memoirs of her life and burn them for her. And then she dies. He burns them and shortly after, Nakata dies. Hoshino apparently inherited his ability to talk with cats, because a cat tells him he needs to wait around to close the entrance stone before something happens. He does, and when a weird, dark, insect-like creature crawls out of Nakata’s mouth, Hoshino decides it’s the right time to close it. Whatever that means.

Kafka leaves the community just in time (I think it’s related to the entrance stone, but I’m not sure in what way) and reunites with Oshima. He tells Kafka of Miss Saeki’s death, but he already knows somehow. He decides he’s going to go back home and finish school and… that’s it.

So if you haven’t picked up on it by now, Kafka On the Shore is very vague about a lot of things. A description on the back of the book as well as in several reviews I’ve skimmed call this book metaphysical, which I honestly still don’t fully comprehend the meaning of. To me, it’s a surreal mystery where no questions are really answered. I’ve heard this book isn’t supposed to give you answers, that you’ll understand it more if you read it multiple times, and that it’s more comprehensible if you read a couple of his earlier books first, but I can’t really say for sure one way or the other. It’s a strange book because despite the weird events and surreal tone, it’s cemented in reality. It’s not like Kafka gains super powers or anything, it still feels like a work of literary fiction, but I personally think that doesn’t mix well with the more open-ended aspects of the book. It’s an experience that I felt was too vague in the overall purpose of the book.

Despite this though, the read itself was great. Maybe it was because I enjoyed reading about a Japanese environment and people, or maybe it was because it was written almost poetically, but my time spent reading this book, despite the confusion, was a very relaxing experience. If I had to make a strange comparison, much of this book felt like those slow, quiet moments in earlier episodes of certain anime shows I used to watch. There’s a focus on the mundane, with elongated details about car rides, making coffee, etc. Characters will have conversations about completely random topics that are never brought up again or lead anywhere. And in most other books (or any story-telling medium, really), I’d label this as a negative.

But here… I don’t know, it just worked for me. Despite some of the events, this was a very peaceful and enjoyable read. It was almost 500 pages, but it went by pretty fast and I didn’t really want to put it down despite very little happening within a reasonable amount of time. I feel the experience these characters had with each other was a huge part of this book’s charm, and was the reason I kept going. It wasn’t for the answers to the book’s mysteries, that’s for sure.

I’d recommend reading it if you’re looking for something different, surreal, foreign, etc. Kafka On the Shore isn’t for everybody, and it’s far from perfect, but it was pleasantly refreshing and really drew me in. And if any of you out there have already read it, let me know what you think! I’m very curious to hear other readers’ interpretations of this book.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you’re having a great week! πŸ™‚

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Info for my edition of Kafka On the Shore:

Published 2006 by Vintage International

Paperback, 467 pages

ISBN 978-1-4000-927-8

New Perler bead art! (Donkey Kong Country, Pokemon, and Harvest Moon)

GEEZ. I don’t know what’s been up with me but I’ve been avoiding posting anything here for WAY too long. And it’s not like I don’t have the time. Just haven’t been feeling up to doing social things, lately. Or maybe it’s laziness. I dunno.

Anyway, as promised almost three freaking weeks ago, I’ve had new Perler stuff I’ve wanted to show off for a while now. I had a lot of downtime this past winter after the new year and I was trying to put a lot of effort into making things I’ve promised my friends for a while now.

One of my friends and I are huge fans of the Donkey Kong Country series on Super Nintendo. He asked me if I could make him the four playable characters from those three games, and although I said yes, I put it off for a while because the Donkey Kong Country sprites are more complicated than your average Super Nintendo sprite.

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The first character I made was Dixie Kong, first introduced in Donkey Kong Country 2 and then starred in her own game in Donkey Kong Country 3. She’s got a helicopter spin to slow her fall, making her great for gaining a lot of horizontal movement across pits and other hazards. This sprite is from Donkey Kong Country 2, when she completes a level and rocks out on an electric guitar with her hair. You could say she’s playing… hair metal. πŸ™‚

I’m not sorry.

Anyway, Dixie was the easiest of the four Kongs to make, mostly because there were more yellows and purples to mix things up. As you’ll see from the other Kongs, the hardest part of these characters was staring at sprite sheets zoomed in at 800% and trying to differentiate a hundred different shades of brown from each other and deciding which of the five or so shades I had to use and where. All right, there weren’t really a hundred shades of brown, but there were a lot more than I was used to.

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After Dixie I made Diddy Kong. He first showed up in the original Donkey Kong Country and then starred in Donkey Kong Country 2. He’s probably the most nimble and fastest of the four characters, so players that enjoy faster moving platform games with greater control probably prefer playing as Diddy Kong. The sprite I used was also from Donkey Kong Country 2, when Diddy finishes a level and beat-boxes with a boom box in a very 90s style.

Honestly, I’m not too happy with how Diddy came out. Something just looks off, both with the colors and the shape. Diddy probably took me the longest to do because of redoing him so often because I was unsatisfied. He had more shades of brown than Dixie and I didn’t have enough to match, so I had to make some decisions about what to use and where. The sprite also, strangely enough, didn’t have Diddy’s shirt. There was just this awkward brown shadow where it should have been. I filled that in with dark reds for his shirt instead; he just seemed naked without it.

While I didn’t like how it came out, everyone else I showed it to did, so maybe I’m just being too hard on myself. :3

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Next I made Donkey Kong himself, strangely only playable in the first game. It’s pretty weird that a series called Donkey Kong Country only has the titular character available to play as in one game. But I mean whatever. All three games are great and I love them and their characters each. Donkey Kong is a bit bigger and slower than Diddy and Dixie, but there’s a few bigger enemies that only Donkey Kong can defeat with all that extra weight. He can also do this ground slap thing to make hidden items unearth from the ground, but I don’t think anyone actually uses it. Not until Donkey Kong Country Returns on the Wii, anyway.

Considering that he’s basically naked except for his tie, I thought Donkey Kong would be the most difficult of the Kongs to make, with even more shades of brown to deal with. But strangely enough, he wasn’t as frustrating as Diddy. There were actually some yellow-oranges thrown in there, so that helped mix things up a bit. His sprite is from the intro to Donkey Kong Country, when he interrupts his father Cranky Kong playing the music from the original Donkey Kong arcade game and busts a move with his own radical jams from his 90s boom box.

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Finally, I made Kiddy Kong. Everyone hates Kiddy Kong. And the only game he’s in, Donkey Kong Country 3. I like him though. He’s a toddler, and I think he’s funny. And this is coming from a person that doesn’t even like kids! I don’t know what everyone’s problem with this character or Donkey Kong Country 3 is. They feel just as natural a part to the series as any of the other characters or games. To me, anyway. Even the friend I made this for hates Kiddy Kong and the third game, so I don’t even know why he wanted me to make him.

Kiddy is bigger and slower like Donkey Kong, and also has some enemies only he can defeat. He can also tumble roll forward, and if you do so off a ledge and just as you’re about to hit water, you can bounce off the surface and reach greater heights (although I could have sworn I’ve done the same thing with Dixie once, as well).

Honestly, I think Kiddy came out the best. He was the easiest, too. The baby blue onesie was a sight for sore eyes. I forgot to take a picture of him at home, though, so I snapped a photo when I gave the Perler art to my friend and he tacked them to his wall.

It was such a relief to finally have these done. I thought complicated Perler art was finally finished. But boy was I wrong.

To be fair, though, my next project was easier.

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This is Dugtrio, one of the original Pokemon taken from the original Pokemon Red and Blue versions on Game Boy. Why Dugtrio, you may ask? Well last fall, another one of my friends felt like playing a Pokemon game. I had also been in the mood for some Pokemon, and we decided that it would be fun to play through a game together. We decided on the original one, as we were both still very fond of it. I played through Blue, and she played through Red. “But wait!” she said. “Since you’re playing Blue and I’m playing Red, why don’t we pursue out childhood dreams and complete the Pokedex! As mature 20-something adults!”

And so, from last fall through the middle of this past winter, we played through the original Pokemon games on Game Boy, on actual Game Boys with non-rechargeable batteries, using a link cable to trade version exclusive Pokemon. It was a long, arduous, unnecessary journey, but we did it. And it was amazing.

I’ll leave the nostalgia and personal gratification for another time perhaps. But Dugtrio was her favorite member of her team so I offered to make her one out of Perler beads to remember the time two mature, 20-something adults played a video game from the 90s and spent too much time capturing every Pokemon because advertising from 20 years ago told us it was the right thing to do.

But I couldn’t stop there. I had to do more. I thought it would be cool to make custom trainer Perler sprites of us in the style of the Game Boy games.

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I’ve got to say I’m pretty impressed with myself. It took a loooong time, but after copying sprites for so long, it was legitimately satisfying to gain some experience making a custom project. It wasn’t easy, though.

So from past experiences working on my Princess Kenny project from a while back, I thought the easiest way to make this was to take a photo of my friend, layer a grid over it, and use the spaces in between each line as pixels and create the Perler piece like I was using a sprite sheet. Long story short, it wasn’t working out as well as I wanted. I wanted more realistic proportions so that’s why I was going by the photos, and while I got them the Perler art just wasn’t turning out great. I tweaked bits and pieces here and there to make it look more like a character from the games without having the character look too much like a little kid (since most of the trainers from the games are kids).

Eventually I started using the rival’s final battle sprite as a reference, since the poses he and my friend were in were similar. That helped, and it was looking better, but still not great. The rival is a guy and my friend is a girl, and I needed help with curves.

After looking through more trainer sprites, I eventually turned to Pokemon Gold and Silver sprites from the next generation of games on the Game Boy Color. They still had the same size and aspect ratio as the original Game Boy games, so they actually helped a lot. And lo and behold, Whitney, the third gym leader, was in an almost perfect pose to use as a better base. I changed the head and clothes up, obviously, but the shape improved a lot after referencing her. And in the end I think it turned out great. My friend loved it, too! I also made an overworld trainer sprite, too, but that was so easy I don’t feel like there’s anything I really have to say about it.

And finally, the same friend actually commissioned me to maker her some custom Perler art. I was very hesitant to take money, considering she was a good friend and I’ve made her stuff for free before, but she insisted and kind of forced me to take something for my time and effort.

She’s a big fan of the Harvest Moon games, at least some of the earlier ones. They’re a series of farming/life simulating games with a cute look to them. She wanted me to make the main character and a cow from Harvest Moon 64. I thought it was going to be complicated, considering the game is from the Nintendo 64 and anything past 16 bits tends to get too complicated to make Perler bead art. But since the game was cartoony and I thought it used sprites, I didn’t think it would be too challenging.

Well as it turns out, I couldn’t find any sprite sheets for Harvest Moon 64. I’ve never played the game before, just seen screenshots. And the game’s characters looked extremely similar to those from Golden Sun on the Game Boy Advance (I think they’re made by the same company?). Now that’s a game I’m very familiar with, and I know there’s sprite sheets for that. So I was surprised there weren’t any for Harvest Moon 64.

Eventually I decided to layer another grid over a screenshot and I worked from there. Except it turns out I didn’t even need a grid, because the screenshot became pixelated enough to work from. Problem was, it was pretty difficult to tell where the character ends and the background begins. This was another tough project. Like the Donkey Kong Country characters, there were a lot more colors to boil down to the few shades available as Perler beads, and nothing I seemed to do looked as good as in-game. Eventually I just started calling my own shots.

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I’m still not thrilled with how the main character turned out. Something feels very off. Maybe the eyes? I don’t know. I really wish there were more blues to choose from so I could have done something better with the hat and overalls. But my friend loved it, and I guess when the person that’s paying you likes it that’s all that matters, right?

 

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I think the cow came out much better. First of all… it’s a cow. Black and white and greys. Even with the bigger color scheme of the Nintendo 64, it’s not that complicated with black and white and greys. But I thought it was boring by itself, so I made a nice little meadow for it to roam in. And I think the meadow helps make this one of the best Perler projects I’ve ever done.

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And finally, partially because I took forever making these and partially because I wasn’t happy at all with how the main character looked, I made a little magnet of the main character, but from the Game Boy Advance game Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town. I think he looks much better like this.

And this is about half of the new pieces I’ve made since I shared my latest Perler update almost seven months ago. As you can see, I’ve been stepping up my game with these Perler projects, but I was happy to go back to something a little simpler. I’m not sure if the next post will cover more Perlers or not. I just finished an interesting book – Kafka On the Shore by Haruki Murakami. But it was kind of confusing and I’m not sure if I can make a proper post about it, but I’d at least like to try. If that’s not up for the next post, then expect more Perler stuff, this time focusing on Undertale.

Thanks everyone for reading, and I hope you’re having a great week! πŸ™‚