Sentimental Journey

By bluemist on March 30th, 2005

Sentimental Journey

12 girls, 12 stories, 12 episodes. Sentimental Journey takes you to a journey through many parts of Japan, seeing many ways of life and love through the experiences of these 12 girls.

Sentimental Journey is a series of 12 separate stories, and one of the only things that are similar to each is the presence of “the guy”. This guy, we don’t know his name, nor we see his eyes, and he seldom speaks. We are not even sure if it’s the same guy each episode. We just know that “the guy” is a certain love interest of each girl, and some events or circumstances made him to separate with the girl. The presence of this guy serves as a girl’s memoir of a lost love, and in a way it plays along with the story at hand. If you ask me, it is a revolutionary concept at a time when harem anime is about to go boom.

This is also one of the very first ren’ai simulation games to ever have an anime series. The original game is called Sentimental Grafitti, and its concept is kinda interesting too. So you still have a slew of girls, but from the very start, they are already in love with you! So the object of the bishoujo game is to make one of them happy, and all others sad! Cool! Apparently, Sentimental Journey comes in as a sort of prequel to the game, because we see “the guy” touching each girl’s lives as a memoir. Whew, but when you think about it, how did this ONE guy make 12 moving trips to different locations in Japan, and make a girl in each location fall in love with him? Amazing! He’s like the king of all romance anime!

The visuals may be quite old, but heck it’s so classy in style, it’s oh too appealing. All the girls have beauty, not only in looks, but in voices, featuring seiyuu that I don’t quite recognize (probably because I’m too young for this old anime). Each episode is very appealing on its own. Each one is so interesting, you’d regret the recent anime for losing the quality of old ones like these. And to think that each girl’s story happens in just one episode means that the anime is extremely well-paced. I wished every episode would never end, because I liked each girl and each story. Sentimental Journey is an absolute treasure that sadly didn’t stand the test of time. I don’t think many would remember or even watch an anime this old. I could only hope that you guys could have journeyed through this at least once.

Episode_1:_Endou_Akira”

– Akira likes playing violin.
– Akira fell in love with a transfer student.
– Akira played the violin for him.
– The student went away.
– Akira lost her will to play the violin.
– Guy from Austria tries to convince her to play again.
– Eventually, she realizes that she likes playing the violin after all.
– Akira got over the transfer student, so she plays violin again.

Episode_2:_Matsuoka_Chie

– Chie is a band leader.
– She doesn’t like love songs because some guy hurt her once.
– A band member, Ryu, seems to have other plans.
– Chie tries to intervene with his personal life, but it turned into an argument.
– Chie thinks that she is breaking the band apart because of her own selfishness (the no-love song part).
– Chie tried to quit the band and ran her motorcycle away, Ryu chased but they got into a minor accident.
– Afterwards the truth was revealed that Ryu actually just wants to turn pro and couldn’t say it to her.
– At a gig, Chie rewards Ryu by letting the band play a love song.

Episode_3:_Nanase_Yuu

– An older girl named Kotone met a traveller girl named Yuu on a long train ride.
– Kotone doesn’t believe in pure love (being in a bad relationship), while Yuu believes.
– Kotone follows Yuu in her journey because she wants to know what pure love is.
– Yuu tells her love story, meeting this guy who likes watching meteor showers at a certain far place.
– The guy promised Yuu to see it together again, but he moved somewhere.
– Despite the incoming tropical storm (they may not see the meteor showers due to the clouds), Yuu is still determined to go to the place to see the meteor showers.
– They reached the place, and it continues to rain.
– By extreme coincidence, the eye of the storm was there, just in time for the meteor showers to appear before them.
– The girls parted ways, and Kotone finally felt a bit happy about her life.

Episode_4:_Sugihara_Manami

– Manami is a sick girl in the hospital.
– Manami thought she was going to die because she overheard her doctor’s conversation.
– Manami tries to write more poems to reach 100 before her time is up.
– Manami hopes her words would reach a guy she likes.
– Manami is slowly losing hope that she can finish the poems.
– Thankfully, the final results of her health say that she is actually a healthy girl. Her parents were just too worried about her to the point that she was taken to the hospital.
– She is okay now, writing for more poems and wanting to be a novelist someday.

Episode_5:_Morii_Kaho

– Kaho and Kyoko are friends and are both runners for a school team, and an oncoming championship event is nearby.
– Kaho wanted her grandma to cook them a special okonomiyaki (a Japanese version of a pizza or pancake) if they win a race.
– Kaho likes this certain runner guy, and she would have wanted to hand the baton to him in an actual relay race, but the guy moved away.
– Kaho keeps a baton memento as remembrance of her love and prays over it everyday.
– Kyoko tells Kaho that their family is transferring to a faraway town, so she becomes Kyoko’s coach.
– Kyoko notices that Kaho is not handing the baton particularly well.
– Kaho helps Kyoko pack things for the transfer.
– Outside, Kyoko told Kaho to forget about the guy so that she can concentrate on the relay, and this became a petty fight between the two.
– The next day, Kyoko called up and said sorry, and that they are already leaving by train that morning.
– Kaho and her grandma drove up to the station, carrying a special okonomiyaki.
– Kaho ran to the station, and just in time to hand over baton-style the okonomiyaki to Kyoko aboard a running train.

Episode_6:_Ayasaki_Wakana

– Wakana is a priestess in training.
– Wakana is troubled by certain memories, specifically of one guy she liked from way back. She calls them her earthly desires.
– Wakana is also troubled about life and love, in which why people still love and remember people even when knowing that love may end someday.
– She goes to a nearby monk to seek help. The monk explains stuff, predominantly about life, love, and memories.
– The monk says that it all depends on her whether to see these earthly desires as a source of strength or a source of weakness.
– He tells a story about two best friends who loved the same woman, but chose the guy who was more truthful to her. The important thing is to be true to yourself.
– Wakana is finally enlightened, and it is revealed that the monk is actually the losing guy in the story.

Episode_7:_Yamamoto_Rurika

– When Rurika was young, she and another boy was cleaning up at school, when she accidentally broke a fossil, and the boy said they should apologize tomorrow.
– Rurika was scared and didn’t go to school for a while, but afterwards she discovered that the boy apologized for the breaking himself, and that the boy moved away afterwards.
– Rurika promises not to lie again.
– Rurika was working at a store in place of her twin brother Masahiro, when suddenly a girl named Kasumi handed her a love letter, which was supposed to be for Masahiro.
– Rurika called up Kasumi, pretending to be Masahiro, for a date, but Masahiro has a real date himself.
– Rurika, dressed as a guy, had gone to the date on the theme park with Kasumi.
– After some time, Kasumi realized the lie, and Rurika apologized. Kasumi forgave her and said that it was like dating a virtual Masahiro.

Episode_8:_Hoshino_Asuka

– Tazaki (a talent manager) and Oki (director of a beauty pageant) has differing opinions about the current teen girls in Japan.
– Tazaki believes that any girl can be a sophisticated lady through proper training, but Oki doesn’t believe so.
– Oki challenged Tazaki into a bet, to turn a certain girl named Asuka into a lady, and join his contest.
– Asuka is pretty hard to train into sophistication, because she is a sort of a modern klutzy Japanese girl, but Tazaki almost succeeded anyway.
– Asuka, however, didn’t show up in the contest.
– Tazaki and Oki met again, saying that Tazaki won the bet, he wonders how, and so Oki told about Asuka.
– Long ago Asuka had promised to see a movie with a boy she liked, but she got sick so she didn’t go, and shortly after the boy moved away.
– Knowing a rerun of the same movie and hearing of a radio message that she thought was from the boy, Asuka had gone to the theater waiting for the boy for a whole day, but he never appeared. What she did that day was lady-like.
– This was why Asuka never showed up in the contest, and so Asuka ‘sophistically’ apologized to Tazaki, and promises to have another try at show business someday.

Episode_9:_Hosaka_Miyuki

– Miyuki helps in their family’s kimono shop, she likes kimonos.
– Miyuki visits a certain old man who draws kimono designs, she likes his kimono designs.
– One day Miyuki’s grandfather decided to set up an arranged marriage for her, but later declined because Miyuki was very against it.
– Nevertheless, her mother set it up so she could meet the guy that she was supposed to see for the arranged marriage.
– The guy (Kaoru) was quite a klutz, and also was not ready for those arranged marriage and stuff, but couldn’t tell his parents.
– Miyuki tells Kaoru a story how she got into kimonos.
– She wore one in a kimono event, when a guy classmate saw her and says she’s beautiful in that kimono.
– Miyuki and Kaoru see the old man throwing his kimono designs to the river.
– The old man says that though he still likes drawing designs, he’s falling back into the times (the computer age allows computer-aided designs), and it’s time to let it go.
– Miyuki and Kaoru parted ways, and Kaoru also had the courage to call the arranged marriage off.

Episode_10:_Nagakura_Emiru

– Emiru goes to an old school building about to be demolished, and is trying to find a ramune bottle.
– Emiru has some sort of third eye, and is being chased by illusions from the ghost of the building.
– The ghost of the building apparently wants her body, but she refuses and continually runs.
– She finally found a room with a magic circle, which is very memorable to her, thanks to the ramune bottle which also has a spirit.
– Back when she was young, Emiru is quite weird because of her special abilities.
– Emiru met this transfer student, and they become close friends, playing at that one old school building room.
– The boy draws a the magic circle, and they found a ramune bottle.
– One day, the boy said that he was transferring away, and so he left a message in a bottle using the ramune as a time capsule.
– Back to the present, where Emiru is being lured by the building’s ghost again, and the ramune’s spirit can’t help and communicate with her.
– The building’s ghost wants her body so that it will live on even after the demolition, but Emiru said that the building will still live on through their memories.
– The building’s ghost was touched and didn’t haunt Emiru anymore.
– Emiru decided not to open the ramune bottle yet.

Episode_11:_Adachi_Taeko

– It’s school festival time.
– Taeko likes shoujo manga.
– Chigusa likes Tetsuro, who is Taeko’s close friend.
– Taeko tries to bridge Chigusa to Tetsuro by teaching few things through shoujo manga.
– Taeko learns from her mother that Tetsuro is actually moving away.
– Taeko convinces Chigusa to knit a sweater for Tetsuro and confess before it’s too late.
– Taeko remembers her experience with a guy she liked, where she wasn’t able to confess her feelings before he moved away.
– Chigusa misinterprets Taeko’s closeness to Tetsuro, thinking that he likes Taeko.
– Taeko believed it for a while.
– At the day of the transfer, we discover that it is all a misunderstanding.
– Tetsuro actually likes Chigusa, and that he is actually just moving elsewhere nearby, and not transferring school either.
– All is well for Tetsuro and Chigusa, and Taeko wonders if spring will come for her…

Episode_12:_Sawatari_Honoka

– Honoka is afraid of boys and love relationships, but has a father-complex.
– She always has dates with her own father, and writes him letters everyday, still having to place it in a postbox.
– A postman always watches her drop the letter into the box.
– One day, Honoka’s friend finds one of those letters, tries to talk to Honoka that this is unnatural, and she must overcome her fear towards boys.
– Honoka stopped dropping letters into the postbox, and then the postman offered to play imaginary boyfriend for her.
– Honoka actually liked a certain boy from way back, but he had since transferred away. She asks herself if that boy is special to her.
– Honoka overhears a rumor about her father having a relationship with his assistant.
– It was a misunderstanding, because Honoka’s father just asked for advice on how to handle her as a daughter growing up.
– Honoka also had a talk with her friend, and she finally agrees about being open to boys and relationships.
– By that time, she stops writing her father letters, and rejected the offer of the postman. She will then try to write letters to the one she liked in the past.

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This is a Summer of Bishoujo feature

To Heart 2: Last Review

By bluemist on March 30th, 2005

FINAL THOUGHTS
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I’m finished!!! Finally, after almost a month, I finished the Konomi scenario in To Heart 2! I never thought I would.

Anyway, my big hurdle was really the language barrier. Not being able to read the Japanese text, I rely and listen closely at what the voice overs are saying in their dialogue. Technically so many details may be wrong in the entirety of the feature, but as a whole all the things that happened in the scenario gives Konomi her necessary character development.

We see her as a fun, klutzy girl who seems always positive but has her share of down times too. She definitely loves her onee-san Tamaki. She is also somewhat superstitious, and likes to buy and give Takaki some charms and stuff like that. She’s definitely a girl, and seeing her cry after her junior school graduation develops her characteristics of vulnerability as a girl. And of course, her “eheee~” habit makes her as cute-sounding as she is cute-looking.

Of course, the other characters which had their share of character development in this scenario are the siblings Yuji and Tamaki. They are very comic siblings. How they punch each other with words or rather physically ups the comic humor a bit in the game. And Yuji serves as the crossover king, citing references to many of the other Leaf games including no less than the first To Heart.

Which brings me to this subject, a possible major flaw in the structure of To Heart 2. How come that all those girls do not remotely know each other? I know that Yuma and Manaka are friends, but that’s just about it. Other than that, no rapport is seen between the other girls. Why is that? I would have wanted some kind of love triangle plot, or some petty fight issues between the girls. I haven’t played the original To Heart game, but why do the To Heart girls know each other in both anime series? In fact, they know each other too well you’d think they’re friends already. Is this an anime-only thing? Will we see rapport among the To Heart 2 characters when the anime arrives? I’ll have to see about that. In any case, it is sad that the To Heart 2 girls have little or no relation to each other in this game.

That said, it really seems to be a straight-forward game. Follow one girl, discard the rest. But if you stray away from her scenario, you get the generic bad ending. Seemingly as simple as that. I guess what really matters here is the story rather than the gameplay. You could see yourself idling away with not pushing any buttons for a period of time, since the choices and place directions are few and far between. It isn’t too hard to stray away from a girl’s scenario either. Just pick the choices that attune to the character, and also go to places where you can possibly meet her. To Heart 2 is an easy game.

On to the technical aspects. For a visual novel or bishoujo game, the event CG is rather good. Only in rare instances did I see the character drawings to be inconsistent. If I’m right, there are a total of 227 event CGs in the game. Character and background CGs blend along well. There are a few special graphical effects seen though, like zooming in the characters, but there are lots of screen fading styles employed (if anyone is ever interested in those). The music is great too. Just recently I realized that many tracks in To Heart 2 are actually revivals or remixes of To Heart PSE tracks! This recreates even more the original To Heart feel, but unfortunately I have a “heard first” tendency, so I rather like the To Heart 2 versions more.

By the way, I am playing the Playstation 2 version of To Heart 2. Actually, there will be a PC port of the game soon, possibly featuring new characters and scenarios to the game. I’m thinking that I may update some parts of this project to include some new events in the PC Konomi scenario in the game, if they will exist (and if I get the game of course).

My many thanks to the people who supported this project. To the people to posted a comment, and also to the game players I (annoyed) asked to help me on this project. Thank you very much!

Well, until the anime or the PC version comes, I officially declare this project… COMPLETE!

Air TV

By bluemist on March 30th, 2005

Air

The days which are wrapped in the scene of summer and to pass gently
An encounter with the girls repeated in the sunlight
Summer continues to where as well
She is waiting in the air…

One of the best bishoujo game based anime ever made. And for good reason.

Made by Key, which also made Kanon (a historical landmark in bishoujo games), Air continues on the tradition of a visual novel, where the player makes some game choices, and the rest is reading and enjoying the visuals and sound. Air is one of the most popular bishoujo game titles. In fact, it’s one of the longest during its time, and gamers are pulled into this world with magnificent settings, lovable characters and incredibly good storytelling. The original concept and story of this title is very dramatic. People who don’t know too much about bishoujo games would immediately classify them as adult-only games (because of certain content), but as I’ve said so many times, some of their stories can even rival those of actual literary novels. Air wins because of its intricate character development and storytelling. Basically, to see is to believe, so I won’t even spoil one bit of the story to you. Besides, you’ll probably be initially attracted to it anyway because of the incredible visuals.

And hell are the visuals so incredible. DVD format is seemingly not enough because the original HDTV broadcasts of this anime are really crisp and amazing. CG-like visuals, backgrounds, and character animation that pays attention to detail. And the simple beauty of all the characters really shine in this anime. It’s one of the best animations to come out on TV, that even OVAs and movies are having a hard time to compete with. What’s better is that there is no noticeable quality loss in any episode. This anime helped Kyoto Animation’s reputation as a powerful animation company in terms of having that wow-factor.

And not only the visuals, the direction of this anime is superb. Usually animators are having a hard time translating a game like this into anime. One reason is that some games have too many multiple paths and endings. Furthermore, to compress an entire visual novel into 13-26 episodes is a hard job. I guess it’s kinda lucky that Air’s story in the game takes a little bit more linear approach. The animators capitalized on that, and in effect, the anime stayed very true to its original game roots. It’s like having a direct manga-to-anime translation, only that it is a game-to-anime one. Fans are quite happy with that, especially when you have amazingly nice scenes to animate. Air has so many funny, happy and dramatic scenes that lifted all of human emotions.

The music is the same. This is quite a surprise, mostly because it wasn’t done before. Air the anime uses the original game soundtrack, and nothing else. It further recreates the feel of the game that way. The songs here, which are made by I’ve Sound, are some of the best I have heard from them, and it clearly complements the story through its lyrics. The seiyuu are composed of some prolific ones and some of my favorites. They make the characters come to life with their excellent voice acting.

The only thing bad about this is that it has to end someday, and seemingly 13 episodes (and 2 more upcoming in a few months) are not enough. But if you had watched it, it would be one of eternal memories. How good is Air? Well, let’s compare it to the real, actual air. It’s there, you breathe it, but you take it for granted. Like that, Air is one anime that may probably be ignored by some, but is actually something special.

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This is a Summer of Bishoujo feature

Beyond the Clouds

By bluemist on March 30th, 2005

Kumo no Mukou, Yakusoku no Basho

 

Mere 320×179 screenshots can’t do this one justice. This anime movie is absolutely gorgeous. So many scenes look like lush CG to me, and the cinematic depiction of a wide sky with clouds rivals those of Kyoto Animation’s Air. All this coming (mostly) from one man, Makoto Shinkai. He gained extreme popularity some time ago by releasing a one-man anime project, which turned out to be Hoshi no Koe (Voices of a Distant Star). Yup, he did all those 24-or so minutes of animation all by himself on a Mac. He also does some short stuff, such as She and Her Cat and openings of various bishoujo games such as Wind –a breath of heart–. Now maybe with more staff and powerful computer hardware and software, he made this movie.

See that huge line among the clouds? That is a tall tower soaring across the sky. We follow the lives of three people. Two boys are attracted to this one girl, as well as their wanting to reach the tower by plane. And so they make a plane and made a promise, that the three of them will go to the tower. These characters live in a world where Japan is divided into the North and South, and much like North and South Korea, the divide has brought about intense pressure politically as well as technologically. The tower is at one regime, and the three characters are in another. Under the circumstances, will they fulfill their promise?

The plot thickens when the girl is having these strange dreams. Over time the characters were separated. One boy joins a research facility, and is also secretly in a terrorist faction aimed to stop the impending war of the two sides. The other boy continues on life in another city. The boys would know later that the girl they adored is in a coma for three years now. When fate brings the three together again, what will they do? Knowing that the girl’s sickness is related to the tower, will they finally fulfill the long-forgotten promise? To fly the plane in the sky to the tower?

Besides the love, friendship and promise story, there is a sci-fi element to the movie regarding the girl and the purpose of the tower. Apparently in this world, there are other parallel worlds, and somehow the tower is able to communicate with those parallel worlds, being able to replace the surroundings of the present world to those of the alternate world it connects to. The girl is also a vital part of the communication. All these science mumbo-jumbo veered me away from the main point of the story for a while, but it isn’t as annoying and confusing as some of those crap from other anime.

Again I say, the animation and art is absolutely amazing. Of course it’s a movie so it should be that way, but the backgrounds in particular look so superb it’s like playing a 2D Half-Life 2 with a very powerful computer. It even kicks bishoujo game CG out of the competition. Only recent Studio Ghibli movies are as beautiful. The angles of the shots are so cinematic, and the character design, though kinda simple, blends well into the picture. Gotta love those shadows, lens flares and other lighting and weather effects. Like Air, it is as if DVD-quality is not enough (need something higher than DVD resolutions, like HDTV) to store the quality of the work. And at last, after months of drought, I have found another soundtrack to remember. The music is absolutely amazing also, it mixes with the scenes very well, and the themes stick to my mind even now.

Of course, it has some shortcomings, such as the ending which may be left to multiple interpretations, the potential story points which have abrupt ends, and the slow drag of some parts of the movie. If this movie were shorter, it would have been a candidate for a classic. But these are mere nitpicks, and considering that this was (mostly) made by one man, that alone is quite a shocker. This movie is a definite must-watch.

Uta∽Kata

By bluemist on March 30th, 2005

Uta∽Kata

I would regard Uta Kata to belong to the bishoujo-mahou-shoujo genre, much like Nanoha. Unlike Nanoha though, despite the radically colorful hair and beautiful Kiddy Grade-like animation, this series is dark. It’s kinda fun for some 1/2 of the series but turns real dark the next. So much for mahou shoujo.

So, basically Ichika is your regular girl in the puberty stage. Not a girl, not yet a woman. Suddenly Manatsu comes out from a mirror and into her life. Ichika was also given some kind of amulet where she utilizes the power of the Djinn… gods of the elements of sun, moon, earth, water, flame, heaven, wind, flower, lightning, darkness, sea, and mirror. At the same time she is experiencing many changes in her life, as she is in between childhood and adulthood. Well, guess what? This is all a test.

At the same time, she is experiencing seven virtues, and the equivalent seven sins of humanity. As if it mirrored itself, the events that used to be good was now inverted to bad. This seems to be a misleading concept. If the mirror reflects the exact same thing, why in Ichika’s case it reflects the reverse? The existence of Manatsu in her life somewhat fills the void. Manatsu is the ‘other side’ of Ichika, and from the very start of this fated summer, she has been there to look over, or guide her, into this test.

So, the test is experiencing the world. But for what reason? The real test is yet to come, which I will not spoil (as if I’ve not spoilt enough). In any case, the answers may surprise you, especially me. My interest in human behavior and philosophy sparked my interest in this anime. While not strong enough a material, it conveyed the point of the matter through random situations and character development. It’s a short series, but it could have been more.

Again, the animation is great. The art is from that Gatekeepers/Kiddy Grade guy, but a whole bunch of popular anime/manga artist kinda pitched in for the costume designs of Ichika. There are 12 mahou-shoujo costumes from 12 artists, conveying the 12 powers of the Djinn. Kinda like Cardcaptor Sakura? Nah. Anyway the music here is fine, but forgettable.

There will be an OVA for Uta Kata, so I figure this is not the end of it yet. As it says on the last scene… the seasons rotate. This has been Ichika’s unforgettable summer. Come to think of it, the whole series is an entire flashback…

Uta Kata OVA
Finally watched the OVA. Basically, it just tied up the loose ends of our ever-endearing yuri and yaoi couples, and how they are able to move on. This brings the stories of Ichika and friends to a happy closure.

What’s next? The mirror remains, and the test will go on, maybe targeting another youth in the verge of being adult. Uta Kata 2? Hopefully.

Genshiken

By bluemist on March 30th, 2005

Genshiken

Again, this anime is about this group of guys composing of Genshiken (short for Gendai Shikaku Bunka Kenkyuukai [Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture]) club members. Frankly, they are ‘otakus’ and this is their life story. Yup. Them otakus like everything. Anime, manga, videogames, cosplay, models and toys, doujinshi, ero-games, blah blah blah. They also love Kujibiki Unbalance.

I was quite surprised that this anime is actually licensed, considering that this has a theme that Americans may not accept. In America, otakuism is like having a cool, elitist lifestyle, regarded as somewhat honorable. In Japan, being an otaku means being in your self-contained hobbyist world, without much social life, neglecting your physical appearance, and basically obsessed with your hobby. Moreover, many anime fans in America think otakuism in Japan is popular, meaning anime, games, and stuff like that are really popular in Japan. They think anime is mostly not for kids. Hell no in Japan. Maybe through this series they would be kinda surprised that the regular mass Japanese viewpoint is from the Genshiken character Saki, who is your typical Japanese girl forced to hang out with these otakus because her boyfriend is (sadly) also one.

Culture barriers are really complex at times. In America otaku are honored, in Japan otaku are oppressed. In other countries anime is cool, in Japan (where anime itself originates) anime is childish. Of course there are subsections to this kind of issue, but this is generally the case. In any case, Genshiken is somehow a generic mirror to the otaku society of Japan. They watch and discuss anime (mostly Kujibiki Unbalance), they play games (actual Guilty Gear footage is being used all the time), attend those doujinshi festivals, do mecha plastic models, and the ever-loved cosplay. The multitude of Japanese cultural (and otaku-cultural) references may alienate me, but generally this is a very fun watch.

Genshiken OVA