New S-P-O-O-P-Y Perler art! — Muffet (Undertale)

Hey everyone! I was planning on having more stuff made for this week’s post. I was originally going to do more smaller projects, but at the last minute decided I wanted to go back and do something Undertale-related. I was originally going to do Muffet, the spider that runs the bake sale, for one of my spoopy Perler projects anyway, so here she is a little earlier than planned!

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Muffet’s one of my favorite bosses in the game, and one of the most fun. I love how she’s using four of her arms to hold teacups and teapots; I always love when multi-armed characters do a bunch of things with their hands simultaneously (the boiler man from Spirited Away immediately comes to mind). Her eyes also wink both in unison and from left to right during the battle with her, so I gave her a couple of winking eyes to make the project a little more interesting.

I had some issues ironing her together. I had a feeling this was going to be too big to iron without problems, so I did the head, legs, and body (with arms attached) separately. I should have done the arms separately too, however; a decent number of beads didn’t fuse right away and it took a little more effort to get everything connected. Some beads also tilted somehow while I was ironing, leading to some awkward bead clusters that I decided to cut out and replace. I think I did a good job saving it, though; I’ve been through worse scenarios where entire sections had to be redone. Overall it’s pretty nice, but the arms are a little flimsy because they’re so thin, and the head definitely feels top heavy.

I feel a little bad for two short posts in a row, especially coming off from posts every other week or two, so I’m gonna share one more picture today:

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I’m very late to the game, but I decided to participate in InkTober this year. If you didn’t know, the goal of InkTober is to make one ink drawing per day for the month of October. I started yesterday, and ideally I’d like to make one every day for the rest of the month, but I might try for more than one to try catching up. The first prompt was supposed to be speed themed, so I drew Sonic. I’m going to try doing these drawings a little more from memory and by copying as little from a source material as possible, although this particular pose still ended up being very similar to one of the official art pieces from the Genesis days.

Anyway, thanks for reading everyone! I hope you’re having a great week! 🙂

New Perler Bead Art!

Let’s jump right into this!

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First is Hitmonlee from Pokemon Red/Blue. Why Hitmonlee? I don’t really know. I like him as a Pokemon, but I’ve never really used one before. Honestly, I came home from work one day, I was pretty tired, a stream I wanted to watch was just about to start, and I thought an art project would be a good way to unwind and do something productive for a couple of hours. I picked Hitmonlee at random; I honestly just wanted to make something that day.

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Next up is Sandslash from Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire. This one was a birthday present for someone, Sandslash being their favorite Pokemon. It was a lot of fun to make, too! I haven’t really used many yellow beads since my Princess Kenny project, and it’s nice to see a little more color in something I made.

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I also made a Wooper from Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire. Lucahjin is currently playing through Pokemon HeartGold blind on YouTube, and when she caught a Wooper I was overcome with awe. I forgot how absurdly cute and derpy this little guy is, and I just had to make one.

You know, it’s funny. There are a lot of shades of blue beads but I often find myself never having the right shade. This project was an example of that. It still looks like a Wooper, but I had to make some different choices off the sprite sheet I was using to make it look like this. It looked awkward before because none of the blues were mixing well with each other.

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The first three were my major projects during the past couple of months. Other than that, I’ve been trying to produce smaller pieces to trying selling at flea markets. A lot involved Super Mario Bros. 3; here I have Mario, a super mushroom, Super Mario, a racoon leaf, and Racoon Mario arranged on my fridge.

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I also made Megaman from his NES games. I don’t really have a lot to say about the original Megaman series, except I have little experience and the little experience I have involves dying a lot. I dunno, like the Mario games on NES, the Megaman series was something I never felt completely used to. However, I will say he makes a pretty cool magnet. 😉

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And finally, I wanted to try making some Legend of Zelda magnets, so I chose Link and an Octorok from the first game. I think they came out all right enough, but I was never a big fan of sprites from NES games that didn’t have an outline to them. They kind of come off meh to me. Oh well.

And that about wraps up all my new Perler projects. I wouldn’t expect many new pieces anytime soon, as I’m currently working on a new writing project for NaNoWriMo. This is my first major writing project since last year, and even though I don’t expect to finish it by the end of the month, I’d like to give it my full artistic attention until it’s over. (It’s not even a novel; I’m more or less just using NaNoWriMo as an excuse to work a lot on this project).

Anyway, hope you’re all having a great week! 🙂

Random Art Day!

I’ve gotten some more art done during the past few weeks! I’ve got to say, it’s been very relaxing when I can sit down and concentrate on drawing again. I’ve got a few more pages worth of drawings done and I figured why not show them off?

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I’ve been trying to doodle some more images from my Adventure Time: The Art of Ooo art book. This first page has Finn, Jake, and Marceline freaking out about something. Finn’s okay; he was a bit of a warm-up. Jake was okay, but I fooled around too much with my pens and markers and ended up making the outlines way too thick. Marceline came out the best, in my opinion. Between the weird face she’s making and her hair going all over the place (which was very fun to fill in), I think it’s the most interesting doodle of the three.

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I made a second page worth of Adventure Time characters, too. I tried drawing Bubblegum getting hit in the face with a slice of pizza, which turned out pretty eh. I drew Flame Princess (I think from the scene when she tried to hug Finn for the first time and realized it wasn’t going to work), which is a little better. The crackles of fire coming off her hair and dress help make it look more complex.

Then I tried a cool-looking Fiona. It was the most detailed, and I think it came out really nice. But the picture I was drawing from was shaded with really cool colors, so I thought why not try shading it myself? And not to toot my own horn, but I think it looks much better after shading it. I’m really proud of how this one came out. 🙂

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After several months of hearing how amazing Steven Universe is, I finally decided to sit down and give it some attention. I would have done it sooner, but Netflix once again didn’t offer something I wanted to watch and once again pushed me a little closer to trying out Hulu. However, after looking through our cable’s on demand features, I found a handful of episodes available to watch at my convenience. (Can you tell I don’t really use the cable in our house very much? :b )

AND I LOVE IT.

I’ve been trying to catch it on TV when it’s on, but it’s easier for me to just record it and watch when I can. Anyway, I’ve wanted to try drawing something Steven Universe related ever since. I wanted to find a picture that had more shading opportunities, but I couldn’t find a good one. So instead I went with a picture of Amethyst from the episode when she and Steven ran away, since that’s one of the episodes that’s been stuck in my head for a while.

I think it came out okay. I tried shading, but it was more like coloring it in black and white. I ended up making the picture take up the whole page, which makes the pencil coloring look more grainy. :/ But I still think it’s looks good. Not as good as my Fiona drawing, but still good.

Anyway, I hope everyone’s having a good week so far! Thanks for reading! 🙂

New Perler Bead Art!

Hey everyone! I’ve had a pretty busy week, I’ve got nothing I want to review, and nothing I really felt like making a post about. You know what that means! Time to show off more Perler bead art!

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I recently made three more characters from Final Fantasy Tactics — Delita, Agrias, and Mustadio. I feel like I’ve ranted enough about that game before, so I’ll spare you here. 🙂

Sorry it’s not much of a post. Hopefully next time I’ll have something a little better to share. Hope everyone’s having a good week!

New Perler Bead Art!

Happy Wednesday, everyone! I originally had a different post planned for this week, but I wasn’t really liking what I had written. So here’s some more Perler bead art instead! 🙂

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First up is Storm Eagle from Megaman X. He’s the boss of my favorite stage (a lot of people’s favorite stage, actually), and it’s my favorite because of the music. Anyone who appreciates retro game music who hasn’t heard it before should probably go look it up after reading this post. 🙂

Anyway, this is definitely one of my better ones. I’m learning how to iron together bigger projects more effectively, and I think this one didn’t have any issues whatsoever. Finding the right shades of purple wasn’t easy, though; Perler doesn’t seem to offer a great range of purple shades, so I had to improvise. If you look really closely, you can even see I used some striped beads to give the illusion of another shade of purple. It actually worked out pretty well! I have a bunch of spare striped beads, and while I don’t want to get into the habit of relying on them, it’s good to know they can get the job done if needed.

DSCN1320Next up is Cloud from Final Fantasy Tactics. Although I haven’t been pursuing it very well, I’d like to make each character from Final Fantasy Tactics out of Perler beads. I chose Cloud next because… well, it’s Cloud! Final Fantasy VII was a big part of my high school experience, and seeing the main character show up as a secret one in Final Fantasy Tactics blew my mind back then. These days I can’t help but wonder if his inclusion was shameless promotion for Final Fantasy VII, but…

… I don’t care. :X

Cloud was pretty easy to make. He’s not particularly big, so ironing went well too. It was kind of weird using so many browns and golds in the hair, considering he’s blonde, but in the end I think it turned out well. 🙂

DSCN1326The next few are all from Pokemon Sapphire, a game that also played a large role for me during high school. As anyone that’s read this blog for a while could tell you, Pokemon was a huge interest for me when I was a kid, as it was for virtually everyone else. When Red and Blue were released, every kid in school was super into it. But by the time Gold and Silver came out, the kids’ interest was fading. Eventually it came to a point where if you liked Pokemon, you were a loser. I still played Silver and my best friend next door played Gold, but a big part of the charm of Pokemon — the communal interest — had been lost. We had to like it in secret for a while.

Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire came out when I was a freshman in high school. To my surprise, one of my friends got it and really loved it. I actually saw a handful of people really interested in it. It wasn’t a popular thing to like, especially as a high schooler, but there was enough of a following that bounced back to make my interest peak again. I got Sapphire for my birthday that year and ended up putting close to 200 hours on the game by the end of high school. :X

Between learning the game’s new mechanics, training up level 100 Pokemon to battle against my friends, keeping an unnaturally close eye on growing berries, challenging the Battle Tower, attempting to fill up the Pokedex, and faffing around with secret bases, it’s no wonder Pokemon Sapphire took up so much of my time back then.

Like Cloud, the Pokemon trainer you play as (his name is Brendan, apparently) didn’t take long to make. He’s really small. So small, I’m thinking about turning him into a keychain. It’s the pose from when the trainer uses an HM move; back then, I thought it was the coolest thing.

Besides from Ralts, of course.

DSCN1329Early in the game, you take a new trainer named Wally out to catch his first Pokemon. Out pops this thing. I don’t know why, but I thought this was the coolest, most adorable little thing in the entire game so far (all 20 minutes of playing it). I searched for an hour in the tall grass before I found one of my own. Later that day, my friend told me it evolves into one of the best Pokemon in the game.

I’m not sure how this one came out, though. Something I’ve noticed about Game Boy Advance Sprites is that they’re more complex than Super Nintendo and surprisingly PlayStation sprites. There’s a lot of smaller differences in color shades that you probably wouldn’t even notice until you saw a sprite of one zoomed in. As a result, sometimes some of the Perler art I make from medium-sized Game Boy Advance sprites looks a little weird unless you’re looking at them from far away.

DSCN1331Ralts’ fully evolved form, Gardevoir, became an instant favorite of mine. Ralts took a while before he could hold his own in battle, but by the time it became a Gardevoir it was one of my best Pokemon. Not to mention this Pokemon looks classy. It’s so elegant, it almost looks like it’s wearing some kind of gown. It was usually my go-to Pokemon.

Maybe because it’s bigger, so more shades can spread out a little more, but I think Gardevoir came out much better than Ralts. It’s definitely one of my favorite Perler pieces so far, nostalgia aside.

Hope everyone’s having a good week. 🙂

Trouble With Music

I’ve got to admit something.

I like Green Day.

This isn’t something I feel I have to be sorry for, but I honestly don’t think I’ve recently spoken to a single person that didn’t meet that fact with some disdain. Whether it’s an opinion that the only good Green Day is Dookie and the albums that came before it, or if it’s a criticism that Green Day is old and should remain in the 90s, the general consensus seems to be that Green Day isn’t a good band, and I’m a lesser person for liking them.

People get really passionate about the music they like. This is good. Music is art. People getting passionate about it is supposed to be a good thing. I’m not going to lie, though – sometimes that passion gets a little too aggressive. Like, one sports team fan getting in a fist fight with another sports team fan in a bar because he was wearing his team’s jersey aggressive.

This is why I usually keep my musical tastes to myself. A lot of people I know who are really into music like to shit all over other people’s preferences. And I don’t mean to sound all high and mighty, I’ll outright say if something sounds like shit when I hear a song I don’t like in a commercial or in a store or something like that. But if someone says they like a band I don’t, I’ll keep my opinions to myself. I don’t need to say “Ewww!” or “that band sucks” or anything else that’s more or less trash talk.

As a result, I don’t have as big of a musical palette as I would like to have. Oh sure, I’ll always ask for good recommendations from people that know a lot about music or listen to a lot of different bands. But over the past couple of years, I’m starting to realize that’s a fantastic way to let people know I’m a loser desperately trying to fit in. Well, at least that’s how I feel like I’m coming off anyway.

I like talking about the things I’m into, so maybe that’s one reason I’m disappointed in the fact that I seem to have a difficult time talking about music. What I really should be doing is finding more music I like on my own, and enjoying it for myself, rather than for the desire to talk about music with other people.

And to some extent, I do. If I read or hear about a band, sometimes I’ll look up the album on YouTube and listen to it. If I like it that much, I’ll try to go find a copy to buy. Maybe I’ll listen to other albums by the same band, or go off on one of the recommendations YouTube offers after the video’s over. Sometimes I’ll listen to Pandora to find more bands that have a similar sound to those I already like.

The thing is, I haven’t heard anything that really stuck with me for a while. And I don’t mean that I can’t find anything I like, because I can. I just can’t find anything that really hits close to home very often. I’ll listen to a song or an album, and it’s nice to listen to when I’m writing or doing dishes or reading or whatever else I’m simultaneously working on. But it’s been a while since I listened to something and felt a strong need to go out, purchase the album, and listen to it again and again for years to come. (I guess to be fair, no one looks for music for the sole purpose of wanting it to last for years and years. It’d be nice, but I don’t think that’s usually a factor in the purchasing decision. I think it’s more of a spur of the moment kind of thing, or maybe fueled by curiosity. Still, you know what I mean.)

Even when something sticks, though, I have another issue that prevents my interest in a band from lasting more than a few months: I’ll listen to them too much, and then I’ll hate them for a while.

Albums are really short compared to other media like movies or books. They’re meant to be listened to over and over again. And because they’re just audio, I think it’s even easier to listen to them repeatedly because you can drive or do other things while doing so. So what will happen is, I’ll buy a new album and listen to it a few times before I can really make up my mind about how much I really like it. The first time I’ll listen to it a little casually for a general feeling, the next couple of times I’ll start trying to familiarize myself with what songs stand out (both positively and negatively), and after that I’ll start really trying to listen for the lyrics.

By that point, I can usually decide if I really like an album or not. If I do, I’ll listen to it almost exclusively. Whether it’s the whole album while I’m driving or walking the dog, or select songs while I’m cleaning up the house, that album will be my new number one. And then within a few months, (if that) I’ll be so sick of it I might not even put a single song on my mp3 player for a few more months.

And I hate that. It makes me feel like I just partook in a fad. And the music wasn’t even whatever was the hit of the week on all the radio stations.

For someone that’s not so knowledgeable about music, I feel like I listen to music fairly often. So when I’m choosing to listen to something and I just bought a new album, I can’t help but feel the urge to keep listening to it again and again. And then just like that, the “one time too many” happens without me even realizing it and I don’t want to listen to it for a long time.

One of the places I listen to music a lot is in my car, naturally. I used to have about a 10 minute drive to work, so I didn’t have a problem leaving a CD in my car for about a week before I wanted to switch it out. After moving last fall, however, my commute’s now 45 minutes. I can easily go through an album once or twice per day, and I’ve found myself relying on my mp3 player’s shuffle function instead of deciding what to bring with me for the ride. So now I find myself struggling to find more bands or albums that keep my interest even more.

Last summer I practically gave up on music entirely. For whatever reason, I got too tired of hearing the same stuff over and over, no matter how hard I tried to mix it up. I got tired of lyrics, too. I found myself wanting to listen to podcasts, YouTube videos, music with just instrumentals, and even video game music instead. It was really strange listening to game music again; I used to do that a lot and I thought I was past it, but when it came down to it, that style of music was putting me more at ease than actual music was.

I’ve been slowly coming back into liking actual music again during this year. Maybe I just needed a break. Maybe I needed to stop focusing so much on all the stuff I’ve been ranting about in this post and just take things day by day, listening to whatever I’m in the mood for. Maybe I needed to start considering I may not be into music as much as I thought I was a few years ago. Which is a shame, because I still get pretty emotional and passionate about certain songs. Well, a lot of songs actually.

It’s weird being so swayed by something that you want to be more into but just can’t.

New Perler Bead Art!

So, I wasn’t planning on showing off more Perler bead projects this week. I wanted to write a new Let’s Talk Books post about the Harry Potter series, but I don’t think I would have been able to make it as good as I could have unless I gave myself another week. Then I was going to write something else, but I began wondering if it would have worked better as a blog post or a very experimental short story, so that may or may not be posted at some point in the future.

Blah blah blah who cares, let’s get dorky with Perler bead art!

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Tellah from Final Fantasy IV.

First up is a Final Fantasy character, Tellah, from Final Fantasy IV. I never grew up with the Nintendo or Super Nintendo Final Fantasy games; my first experience with the series was Final Fantasy VII for the original PlayStation in 2002, almost five years after the game was released. However, I’ve played many of the other games since then, including FFIV. Actually, my interest in playing this particular game came from one of the first Let’s Plays I ever watched. It sounds weird, but I have more memories with that Let’s Play than from playing the game itself.

Anyway, one of my coworkers really likes FFIV, especially Tellah. This was a very spur of the moment project, and I ended up giving it to him. It wasn’t very big; it easily fit on a single pegboard, and it probably took less than an hour to make, too.

Setzer from FFVI.

Setzer from FFVI.

Next is another Final Fantasy character, Setzer from Final Fantasy VI. I played this game for the first time last year, and while I don’t agree it’s the best Final Fantasy game, I really liked it and can see why it’s so many people’s favorite. Setzer was one of my favorite characters to use, and I always loved this pose of his. When I finished Tellah, I went straight to making Setzer. They’re both about the same size and took about the same amount of time to make.

Kirby from Kirby Super Star.

Kirby from Kirby Super Star.

I’ve always enjoyed Kirby games since I was a kid. They’re very casual, which suits me perfectly. They’re great for when I’m in the mood to play something, but only for a couple of days. Sometime last month, that exact situation popped up and I played through two games. And sure enough, I got the urge to make Perler bead art from the series.

I chose a sprite from the Super Nintendo game Kirby Super Star. This was also another game I didn’t grow up with; I had the Nintendo DS remake Kirby Super Star Ultra. I’m not sure why I picked a sprite from the Super Nintendo version, but what’s done is done. I’m not exactly thrilled with the way it came out, and I had a feeling I wasn’t going to be when I started. I didn’t seem to have any of the exact colors used in the sprite sheet I referenced. This isn’t the first time something like that happened, though, so I tried it out anyway.

Eh.

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Morty from Pokemon Gold and Silver.

I’ve already talked about the influence Pokemon had on me as a kid in the first part of my anime retrospective, as well as many other posts, so I won’t talk about it too much here. Since making the protagonist, rival, and Prof. Oak from Pokemon Red and Blue last year, I wanted to eventually make all of the main characters and gym leaders from the series that had 2-D sprites. I used a random number generator to decide who to make next, and I got Morty from Pokemon Gold and Silver.

It came out okay, I guess. But I don’t know, something about it didn’t wow me like the monochrome Game Boy sprites.

Sonic from Sonic 3 and Knuckles.

Sonic from Sonic 3 and Knuckles.

Tails from Sonic 3 and Knuckles.

Tails from Sonic 3 and Knuckles.

Knuckles from Sonic 3 and Knuckles.

Knuckles from Sonic 3 and Knuckles.

Dr. Robotnik from Sonic 3 and Knuckles.

Dr. Robotnik from Sonic 3 and Knuckles.

And finally, we have the main cast from the Sega Genesis Sonic the Hedgehog series: Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and Dr. Robotnik as seen in Sonic 3 and Knuckles. This (or Sonic 3 or Sonic and Knuckles on their own) were my go-to video game when I was a kid. Whether by myself or when playing with my best friend next door, we spent a lot of time with the Sonic series on the Genesis. When I first started making Perler bead art, I couldn’t wait to try making Sonic characters. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a good range of colors until recently. But at least I finally made them!

Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles came out all right (the lighting in the Sonic picture makes the beads look a lot brighter than they are, unfortunately). They aren’t very big; I think each one fit on a single pegboard. Dr. Robotnik, however, was a much bigger project. I believe he took up four pegboards and a teeny bit of two more for the flames coming from his vehicle’s exhaust pipe, so I had to use six in total. This was one of those situations where I had a strong hunch the beads were going to give me a lot of trouble fusing, so I split the ironing between the top and bottom half, and then ironed both sides together. Thankfully, this pulled the project together fairly well, and Dr. Robotnik is now one of my best pieces yet!

The eternal chase.

The eternal chase.

Hope everyone’s having a good week! Next time I’ll (hopefully) have something to say about the Harry Potter series! 🙂

Why I Fell In Love With Anime and Why I Grew To Hate It – Part 3

This is the third part in an ongoing retrospective of my experiences with anime. Make sure you’ve read from the beginning!

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One Saturday night during my sophomore year of high school, I went to play laser tag with some friends. When I got home it was around midnight, and on Cartoon Network there was a new anime being aired that I hadn’t seen before. It was a quiet show with ambient music. It was digitally animated, but retained the beautiful style of backgrounds from traditional animation, something I didn’t see as often anymore. This show must have been airing for a while, because the first episode I was watched was right in the middle of the series. I naturally didn’t understand what was going on, but I was absorbed and wanted to watch again next week.

This show was .hack//SIGN, and along with Evangelion, it would become my favorite anime.

.hack (pronounced “dot hack”) was, at the time, a new franchise consisting of a TV series, a PlayStation 2 RPG separated into four games which also included a DVD with each game featuring an episode from a miniseries, and a manga series. Sound confusing? It was. But I loved the complexity of it back then. Each of these individual titles all featured events surrounding an online game creatively titled “The World.” But aside from that and a couple recurring characters, that’s where the story-related similarities end.

.hack//SIGN (pronounced “dot hack sign) followed the events of Tsukasa, a player who, for lack of a better explanation, was trapped in “The World” and couldn’t log out. The show begins touching on many mysteries this online game and series had while setting up the events that led to the PS2 games. The PS2 games (which all have different titles, but for convenience I’ll just refer to them as the .hack games) blended RPG storytelling and what I’m assuming is a simulated experience playing an online game. You play as a character named Kite, who’s trying to find out why his friend fell into a coma as a result of playing the game. You check e-mails, message boards, and team up with other characters to explore the game that continually deteriorates, glitches out, and ultimately affects the real world. .hack//Liminality is a short miniseries about a group of people in the real world investigating how the online game is affecting it. Each episode is on a DVD bundled with a game, and I believe they were meant to be viewed while playing each game, as the miniseries is supposed to take place alongside it. Finally, .hack//Legend of the Twilight is a three-volume manga series (which was later adapted into its own anime) that takes place after the events of the PS2 games. It was about… something. I’m sorry, but I was honestly never a big fan of it. It’s more of a cute little side story compared with the rest of the initial stuff.

The original .hack series. From left to right, there's the anime .hack//SIGN, the manga .hack//Legend of the Twilight, and the four PS2 games.

The original .hack series. From left to right, there’s the anime .hack//SIGN, the manga .hack//Legend of the Twilight, and the four PS2 games.

Sound confusing? Yeah, it was. But again, I loved the complexity of it. I don’t know why, but the more convoluted and complex an anime was in telling its story, the more I believed it was deep. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not calling any of the .hack stuff bad, but… well, we’ll talk more about this later.

Anyway, .hack//SIGN, along with being a visual and audio delight, also had a really interesting story and characters behind it. It’s not every day I could say a show with a concept as stupid as “someone gets sucked into a video game” could have been so moving. It was really interesting to see the characters play in the online game and slowly reveal different parts and struggles in their real lives. While most of the show took place in the game, there were a few grayscale scenes that depicted their real world selves, which I thought was a very interesting insight to remind the viewer that there are different, real people behind their in-game characters. And to top it off, .hack//SIGN, like Evangelion, featured a main character with severe self-esteem and family issues, which always made a more interesting story for me.

I caught .hack//SIGN when I could on television, although I wouldn’t see the series in its chronological episode order until I received the box set as a Christmas gift during my junior year. I received the first PS2 game (along with my PS2) for Christmas when I was a sophomore. I also started buying the manga around this time, and continued to purchase the next game or volume whenever it became available or when I had the money to do so. .hack wasn’t something that came into my life all at once; it gradually kept building up over the course of high school. I think this is one of the reasons why it seemed so much bigger to me. Although I always preferred shows that began and ended within a season and manga that didn’t go on for 10+ volumes (some of them never end!), .hack felt different because each of its initial series felt like its own thing. You didn’t necessarily need to experience one title to understand and enjoy another one, but each entry added something new to understanding the overall setting and plot of the entire franchise. And at the time, there was just the anime, the PS2 games (and their bundled DVDS), and the manga. It was a bigger project collecting these than any other anime-related experience I’d had, but it was still doable. It was exciting.

And it was mine.

Since starting high school, I felt like I’d relied on the recommendations of friends to discover anime, manga, or RPGs. I don’t know if anyone else ever went through this, but when someone introduced me to something they’re into, it always felt like “their thing.” Regardless of how much I enjoyed it, it always sort of felt like I copied someone else’s interests. Evangelion was the only anime that felt like I’d discovered on my own, and it was refreshing to know I’d discovered .hack in a similar way.

I made a lot of memories with both the show and games, and the music was a big part of that. I’d been slowly getting into and appreciating video game music and anime soundtracks since starting high school. Final Fantasy VII was such a great game to me that I ended up finding the soundtrack for it online and asking for it for Christmas my freshman year. I’d bought two Zelda soundtracks from a Nintendo service when I was in middle school, but the FFVII soundtrack felt like the first proper one I’d received. It had four discs, 85 tracks, and an insert that was written almost entirely in Japanese. Along with that, a couple of friends had made me a couple of mix CDs featuring a number of songs featured in anime intros and endings (only they were full length!) as well as tracks used in shows themselves.

The FFVII soundtrack, my first official one not including two Zelda one I ordered in middle school. I loved it, but how was I supposed to know what the tracks were called?

The FFVII soundtrack, my first official one not including two Zelda ones I ordered in middle school. I loved it, but how was I supposed to know what the tracks were called?

I listened to these CDs a lot during high school, and I found myself listening to them more than actual music, which is a shame because that definitely didn’t help the whole “anime fans are weird” stereotype that had become more and more apparent as time went on. But regardless, I was interested in expanding my soundtrack collection. FLCL had a pretty kickass soundtrack featuring a lot of vocal tracks from an actual Japanese band called The Pillows, and I found myself wanting to listen to the music outside of the show the more I rewatched it. And now, there was .hack//SIGN, perhaps the most ambient and atmospheric music I’d heard in an anime to date. I began developing a genuine intrigue to listen to this kind of stuff, music I didn’t hear on the radio or music that no one really knew about except for other anime fans.

Well as luck would have it, a couple of the malls I visited had Suncoast stores that started carrying not only anime, but other anime-related merchandise like plushies, keychains, and yes, soundtracks!

I don’t remember when exactly I picked it up (I’m assuming either late sophomore year or early junior year), but I still distinctly remember holding the first soundtrack for .hack//SIGN in my hands. I hadn’t seen all of the show (it may have honestly not been a lot), but I was so intrigued by what little music I had heard that I made the decision to buy it right then and there. It became one of my favorite CDs in high school; it was extremely soothing and atmospheric, perfect for helping me deal with the drama high school brought. Two FLCL soundtracks followed shortly after (one of them may have even been that day), and from then on Suncoast became my go-to place for anime soundtracks. Some I couldn’t find, and for those I’d order online from different websites, but Suncoast was always my top preference.

These were my first official anime soundtracks. Suncoast gave us anime fans a lot of merchandise over the years.

These were my first official anime soundtracks. Suncoast gave us anime fans a lot of merchandise over the years.

The latter half of high school

Most of my anime friends graduated by my junior year. I found myself relying on my own experiences to discover and continue enjoying anime from then on. I fell out of touch with most of them; while they were fun, I never saw or talked to them very often outside of school. Most were a couple years older, and I’m sure many people remember feeling a natural barrier between under and upper classmen. I’d still see some of them occasionally. A few of us kept in touch on AIM for a while, but from then on it was just me and my closer friends, who held varying degrees of interest in anime. I was able to share some things I liked with them, so now it felt like I was the one filling other people in on the world of anime. I’d pick up more anime, manga, and RPGs as high school continued, although…

Some of the “new” was beginning to fade. After being a new anime fan for three years, my desire to see new shows, read new manga, and play new games had less to do with fascination and innocent curiosity, but felt more like a responsibility, for lack of a better word. I felt like as an anime fan, I needed to keep experiencing new stories, collecting the soundtracks and merchandise that followed, to continue building up shelves in my room with more and more stuff. Back then I was really into it, so it’s not like it felt like work. Enthusiasts of anything probably feel something similar. But that need to do it, the one that overwrote the want – that was something I felt growing for the remaining years I was an anime fan, and I didn’t understand it until much later.

A lot of people didn’t understand my enthusiasm for anime in general, which of course made it harder to like without feeling like there was something wrong with me. While I always dealt with criticism for it from people that weren’t interested, I couldn’t help but notice it build up around this time. Maybe it’s because I was mostly collecting manga, but once I started coming home with soundtracks, plushies, and other merchandise, some more heads started to turn. Maybe it’s because during the second half of high school, especially senior year, people started focusing more on where they wanted to go to college and do with their lives as opposed to me, who planned on going to community college and still spent his free time with anime and video games. Maybe it’s because anime stopped being something I was interested in and became something I was sort of obsessed with. I don’t want to say obsessed, but considering how into it I was, it was clear it was more than just a hobby.

You’d think the only people that would still understand my passion were other anime fans, but truth be told, other anime fans were becoming harder to get along with. I don’t know what exactly happened in my school after my original anime friends left, but the ones in my grade and below seemed to have differing opinions on what it meant to be a “true” anime fan. Some people insisted that you weren’t a real anime fan unless you peppered your speech with various Japanese words like “kawaii” and “chibi.” Other fans only liked the cute stuff. Another group of fans only liked uncut shonen shows like Dragonball Z and Naruto. Some fans only liked shows with a ton of blood and violence. In fact, one time during college, I was at an f.y.e. with a friend looking at anime DVDs, and this girl showed up behind us.

“Ew, what’s One Piece doing in the anime section?” she asked in a semi-valley girl tone.

My friend and I looked at each other and didn’t know what to say, so being a smartass, I said, “Uh… because it’s an anime…?”

“No it’s not,” the girl insisted. “Real anime has a ton of blood and fighting and cursing. One Piece doesn’t even look like an anime.”

I swear this conversation happened. I know it sounds like something someone would make up, but I swear it happened. Just… what!?

People always preferred different anime, of course. But around this time I started noticing a pretty big divide. Especially when I started watching .hack//SIGN. It was a show with a lot of focus on talking and not action, and anime fans either appreciated it or hated it.

To top it off, no one really seemed to be collecting anything anymore as far as shows and manga went. Everyone sort of started watching or reading stuff illegally online. They all kept saying the English dubs and subs sucked, and they weren’t accurate to the original source. As you can tell, I liked the English translations of anime. I’d been watching, reading, and collecting them for three or four years by this point. The people that got me more into anime had done the same. So it was a little unusual to hear so many people suddenly jump on this bandwagon. I know they have their opinions about the English releases, but…

Well, I’ll get to that in a future part. Oh, I certainly will.

Anyway, that’s sort of what anime life was like for me in the latter half of high school. .hack was a huge part of it, I remember getting into the Negima! manga, which was the next series Ken Akamatsu (creator of Love Hina) began as well as the Excel Saga manga, which was pretty different and honestly a lot better than the show. I picked up the anime version of Love Hina at some point, although it honestly didn’t even hold up to the manga for me. When Samurai Champloo started releasing episodes on DVD and Adult Swim, I immediately got into that (as a Cowboy Bebop fan, I was pretty excited about it). I was still drawing anime characters a lot, and it’s with mild embarrassment that I admit to even drawing myself and my friends as anime characters, too.

The box set of Samurai Champloo, and the first volumes of Excel Saga and Negima!

The box set of Samurai Champloo, and the first volumes of Excel Saga and Negima!

Out of my four close friends that weren’t as interested in anime, only one of them regularly watched or read new things I bought, which was fine for the time. It was kind of sad to know I didn’t have a group of anime friends around anymore, and the rest of the anime fans in my school were often a little much to deal with (although I did become friends with some of them). But my close friends fulfilled more of a role in my life up until this point. It didn’t really matter if they weren’t as enthusiastic about anime. They didn’t hate it, at any rate.

During my senior year, however, we ran into some problems. There were some fights, some falling outs, and a lot of awkward tension. I’m not really going to go into it; this really isn’t the time or place. But I feel like it’s worth noting because during my senior year, a handful of shows really caught my attention and focus. I think a large part of this was to keep me distracted from personal problems.

The first major anime I got into that year was Hellsing. One of my friend’s brothers was always raving about how cool it was, and my dad had just started a Netflix account. Put two and two together, and bam. Hellsing arrived in my mailbox four separate times on four separate discs. Hellsing was an action show that made me obsessed with vampires that year. It was about a gun toting vampire named Alucard who worked for the Hellsing Organization to stop vampires and other supernatural things from taking over London. It wasn’t particularly deep, but I still liked it.

This show was really all about Alucard. His character design was really cool; he had a dapper hat and sunglasses that made silhouettes of him look great. He was confident, badass, snarky, and really funny. A lot of that charm came from Crispin Freeman’s voice work. Anime fans can say what they want about English voice acting, but when I hear Crispin Freeman play a role I can’t help but think those fans haven’t really been paying attention to how far voice acting has come.

The Hellsin manga and original series box set. I first watched it through Netflix, but eventually picked the show up either senior year of high school or my first semester of college.

The Hellsing manga and original series box set. I first watched it through Netflix, but eventually picked the show up either senior year of high school or my first semester of college.

I eventually started picking up the manga one volume at a time over the course of senior year. I had just gotten my first job, and now that I had a stable income I was able to spend a little more money. I remember closing after school a couple nights a week, and sometimes I would walk over to the nearby Barnes and Noble, buy a manga, and come back during my break. The manga started out the same as the show, but took a drastically different turn about three volumes in. It turned into a war between the Hellsing Organization and Nazi vampires, and it kind of just goes crazy from there. The artwork was great, and there were a lot of cool silhouettes to draw from. Or what I called anti-silhouettes, considering they were white outlines on black backgrounds. The manga released volumes sporadically. My senior year in 2006 had seven available, and one more would be released about once every year until the final volume all the way until 2010. Geez, that was a pretty long wait for a ten volume manga!

An example of Hellsing's art style. I was coming out of my Jhonen Vasquez phase, but I still liked inking and using a lot of black, so drawing panels like these was still fun.

An example of Hellsing’s art style. I was coming out of my Jhonen Vasquez phase, but I still liked inking and using a lot of black, so drawing panels like these was still fun.

Strangely enough, watching Hellsing made me really interested in vampires. I read Dracula that year as a result, and my senior paper ended up being about the evolution of vampires throughout literature. Back then this was really cool to me, but Twilight has kind of sucked the fun out of vampires since then.

Around Christmas, two new shows I bought were Azumanga Daioh and Noir. Azumanga Daioh was cute, and I enjoyed it enough to buy the four volume manga, but it didn’t really stick with me. Noir, on the other hand, certainly did. I first learned about Noir from a Suncoast flyer, and I even drew one of the characters that was on it. I kept it in mind to look into at a later date, and as luck would have it Best Buy had the whole series for only $40. It was a good show, actually one of my favorites back then. Although to be honest I’ve forgotten a lot of the plot, so I don’t think I could give much of an accurate summary.

But the big thing I took away from Noir was the music. It was so eerily similar to .hack//SIGN’s that I bought both soundtracks once I saw them in Suncoast. And with a little compare and contrast of the composers, I found out that both shows’ music were written and performed by the same person. Yuki Kajiura and her band See-Saw composed the soundtracks, and I was so delighted to find that out. See-Saw would become my go-to answer whenever someone asked what my favorite band was. I didn’t even care if they never heard of them. For the first time since I started listening to Japanese songs and music, I finally had a band name I could answer with. You have no idea how awkward it was to say I liked Japanese stuff whenever someone talked to me about music. It’s not like it was all I listened to, but at the time it was my preferred genre.

The Noir box set and two soundtracks. I was really into this show senior year. I wonder why I remember the music more than the plot.

The Noir box set and two soundtracks. I was really into this show senior year. I wonder why I remember the music more than the plot.

Noir also inspired some art from me. Along with a Hellsing project I did for art class, I made a collage of my favorite character from the show. Ah, high school art class. My teacher was really easy-going, and always encouraged us to work on our own projects. Or maybe he didn’t care. Maybe he just wanted us to be working on something. Whatever. He was still cool. He helped me learn more about blending colors, anyway.

A couple characters from Hellsing I did for art class senior year. My teacher wanted to feature it in a display case in the hall, but couldn't because one of the character's Nazi necklace.

A couple characters from Hellsing I did for art class senior year. My teacher wanted to feature it in a display case in the hall, but couldn’t because one of the character’s Nazi necklace.

A collage of images from Noir featuring my favorite character, Chloe.

A collage of images from Noir featuring my favorite character, Chloe. Also a senior art project.

It wasn't a project for school, but I figured I would show it off anyway. Another Hellsing drawing, featuring Alucard and his "rival" Alexander fighting in the show's intro.

It wasn’t a project for school, but I figured I would show it off anyway. Another Hellsing drawing, featuring Alucard and his “rival” Alexander fighting in the show’s intro.

While I was looking through my old art for the past three photos, I found this too. I forgot I made a .hack//SIGN picture for art class during junior year. This one was even featured in the display case outside the classroom :)

While I was looking through my old art for the past three photos, I found this too. I forgot I made a .hack//SIGN picture for art class during junior year. This one was even featured in the display case outside the classroom 🙂

Finally, senior year brought me Fullmetal Alchemist. I’m not sure when it started airing, probably sometime during late junior or early senior year. But I came into the series about halfway through when I caught it on Adult Swim one night. It was probably around spring, as I remember really getting into it towards the latter part of the school year. It was the story about a couple of boys trying to get their lives back to normal after an accident involving alchemy. In this show’s world, alchemy exists as a sort-of-but-not-really magic, where alchemists have limited control over certain properties. Two young boys were going to try bringing their dead mother back to life, something forbidden in their world. One brother lost his arm, which was later replaced with a prosthetic metal one. The other lost his entire body, but due to quick thinking by the first, his soul was attached to a suit of armor as a temporary replacement.

It’s a really interesting show, and probably one of the few I would still be interested in rewatching. It’s not without its clichés, but it doesn’t have a lot of the awkward fan service so many other anime tend to throw in for the sake of throwing in. It’s an all-around appealing show, mixing elements of adventure, humor, action, and emotion. And it never goes over the top. One thing anime tends to do is dramatically shift between different tones and it gets really annoying after a while. Shows like Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, and Fullmetal Alchemist were good at keeping and balancing consistent tones throughout the series.

Strangely enough, my friend’s mom was into anime and she had the first half of the series on DVD. I borrowed them, caught up, and watched the rest of the series on Adult Swim throughout the rest of high school. Along with Hellsing, I also started collecting the available manga one by one with part of my paycheck. I was surprised how differently the manga was turning out from the anime, and throughout college I would be continually impressed as each new volume was released.

During the summer between high school and college, I used some of my graduation money to start buying the DVDs for Fullmetal Alchemist. Best Buy was having a great sale where each DVD was only $20 (which was pretty good in 2006), so I stocked up and bought almost the entire series that summer. It may not have been the smartest thing to do with my money, but anime’s an expensive hobby. Unless you’re watching/reading pirated stuff. But again, I’ll get to that later.

I invested a lot of myself into these new shows. There was also a manga I started reading called Chrono Crusade, which I guess I spent a lot of time with as well. It had good art, I really liked the shades of colors on the covers, it had a pretty solid story, and it was only eight volumes long. I reread it frequently that year and I guess it stood out just as much back then, but I honestly can’t remember a lot about it. It’s been a really long time, after all. But that was pretty much senior year of high school. Like I said, the changes in my personal life weren’t something I was good at dealing with, so now more than ever anime was a sort of safe haven for me. Even bigger changes were in store for me with college around the corner. But we’ll talk more about that next time.

<– Part 2                                                          Part 4 –>