Hatsukoi Limited

By bluemist on June 28th, 2009

Hatsukoi Limited

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Let me just say this up front. I can’t believe myself. How could I consider Hatsukoi Limited, a stereotypical, fanservice-laden, straightforward series with one-dimensional characters and simplistic plot as one of the best romance animes ever made? This anime panders to the male audience. The girls are of different but typical flavors of hawtness. The guys have their loser qualities just the way it should be in this genre. All of them entangled in a Web 2.0 style relationship chart, which is really the only complex thing in this show. Everything about this spelled “shallow”. “Dumbed down”. “Bland”. “Generic”. Yet with all this negativity… I love this show! I love this anime with an almost guilty, embarassing passion! So to anyone still not intimidated by all the bad things I said about this anime so far, please read on. Let’s try to discover why the hell Hatsukoi Limited is freaking awesome. Let me say that again: Hatsukoi Limited is FREAKING AWESOME!

We begin with a not-so-limited number of boys and girls in middle and high school, the oh-so-typical setting for multiple “first loves” to bloom. And bloom they did, as each episode focuses on one or two girls with their first experiences at this simple, yet confusing feeling called love. If you have any kind of fetish in your 2D girl fandom, they probably have it in this show. We have a cute girl who’s dangerously strong despite the looks. The optimal cool beauty who’s quite a newbie in the love department. The worst (best?) onii-chan complex in any anime ever. The big-bust swimming girl who actually doesn’t like being well-endowed. The cool beauty #2 tennis superstar. The all-systems-completely-normal girl that had the best episode in the anime. And finally, my personal favorite, the ultimate rendition of tsundere. These seven girls are paired with no less than nine guys – the kind yankee, the normal guy, the semi-normal guy, the ero-kappa, the siscon, the anti-siscon, the tennis guy, the swimming guy, and the alpha painter guy. Along with side characters, this provides probably a very confusing relationship chart considering it’s just a 12-episode anime. After a few episodes though, you would eventually get a hold of these characters, simply because they are… er… simple.

The attitudes of each character are so strongly-typed that they seem to give every single cliche in the harem book a run for its money. The girls, they are hot. The guys, most of them are losers in their own domains. How does Hatsukoi Limited succeed then, being the complete encyclopedia of what is right and wrong about harem anime? My answer may be as confusing as “first love” itself! The anime merely “clicked” on me. I read the manga beforehand and I really didn’t think it were anything special. But then the anime came and had this awesome presentation, all elements laid in perfect symphony with each other. The animation, the music, the story pace, all very entertaining. Everytime I watch a single episode, it feels like an event. For many weeks, it had been my Sunday show, getting and watching the raws first before watching the same episode AGAIN with the subs. I would make worthless Twitter posts about how awesome the episode is even if I can’t describe it well within the character limit. In this time when I treat most anime as an “I can always watch an episode later” afterthought, Hatsukoi Limited is the single anime which I just HAVE to watch as immediate as possible. This is indeed, love at first sight.

In Hatsukoi Limited, romance is unlimited. From a simple blush to the heartful embrace, everything is endearing. There is always something innocent and pure about a “first love”, and this series just expresses that in every example that it makes. The way each character learns about love is what made this anime go deeper than its otherwise generic exterior. The development goes beyond the one-dimensional phase of these characters, with them asking each other and even themselves about love. How would I react to a love confession? How could I confess to a childhood friend? How should I serve onii-chan today (this is a joke)? How can I get over my complex and please my love? How can I hold her hand? How can I show him my affections? Why is my love so shallow? Why am I holding on despite her loving someone else? Why me? How can I be a better person? How can I be true to my feelings?

These questions, while simple, feels real. It’s actually the way we deal with emotions in our own lives. When you add these thoughts and self-reflections into the equation, all that shallow and bland exterior goes away. Hatsukoi Limited is a show where you really shouldn’t judge it from its cover. This is not just about fanservice or about unreal situations to fuel any otaku’s wish fulfillments. It’s a show about love, in a simple and complex way, when it is your first time at it.

I highly commend the animators at J.C. Staff for this. This is essentially the spiritual predecessor to any excellent romantic comedy anime that they have made, particularly Kimikiss ~pure rouge~. The feel of that series is here, the same “kilig moments” (sweet romantic moments), camera panning cinematography styles, and to how exceptional the music blends with the current scene. They have modified an otherwise normal manga into a highly coherent piece, mixing up multiple storylines to make it less confusing, and even changing some events slightly. I feel rather bad about the original manga actually, because with that complex relationship chart, the series is clearly gunning for a long serialization. But the series was unfortunately cut short due to some reason, and so the ending feels kinda rushed. The anime ended more or less the same way, but the modifications made it completely tolerable. In fact, they made it superior to the original source itself. It’s rare that an anime can go beyond its source material, but somehow with Kimikiss (with its typical bishoujo game roots) and now Hatsukoi Limited, they pulled it off. J.C. Staff is having hit after hit in this genre for quite a while, I should enjoy more of their works.

What else can I say? I really hope I had convinced you to watch this show if you haven’t already. I would admit, part of my excitement about this anime is my own version of overhype, but what’s wrong about that? One of the girls in the series just nailed that point. If you’re in love, you are in love. That’s it. No ifs, no buts. And as one of the songs in the anime goes, it’s just something you feel, and the feeling won’t stop. You want the whole world to know about it, before it fades away hidden within the many other anime people are more likely to watch than this. To me, Hatsukoi Limited is an instant classic. Highly recommended. I hope you feel the same way.

Animeme: Hatsune Miku sings in Filipino!?

By bluemist on June 11th, 2009

A holler out for Filipinos out there, we have a local animeme winner here!
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Eroge Recession 2

By bluemist on June 4th, 2009

Eroge Recession?
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If the first article may have been a result of my personal burnout having lost interest in these kinds of games, I think this time the industry is in a real paradigm shift. Well, this news may have been mostly overlooked by everyone since… well, who among us really do play rape-related eroge anyway? This is a niche genre inside a niche genre inside a niche genre of gaming. I wouldn’t have even known of Rapelay at all if it were not for some over-conservative people who want this game banned, and in effect drove a massive campaign against this niche of a niche of a niche genre of games. I find this rather ironic, because as a result of this sequence of events that eventually led to the banning or restricting of games in Japan with rape themes, the gaming industry itself JUST GOT RAPED.

As I said, most people won’t care about this, and to the two people who are still reading my article, kudos to you because I am about to say why this is very important. As the legendary saying goes… THIS IS WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS. The vast majority of people, namely the people who don’t understand, refuse to understand, or are co-erced by other people not to dare understand, ruin it for the rest of us. Well, it can’t be helped. We are in this niche genre. Anime is still niche. Heck, even with how big E3 is or how gaming is braving the economic recession tide… gaming is still niche. These two aspects of entertainment that are close to my heart are the current punching bags of our world. It gets blamed for everything wrong in the world, from violence, to immorality, to radical thinking… etc. And we are unable to save it because democracy is the most powerful thing in the world today. Whatever the majority of people want, they get, most of the time.

See, it has some advantages too. When the majority is on our side, the over-conservatives usually stay quiet. This is why violence and sex in games like Grand Theft Auto 4 were allowed. But in something as small as bishoujo gaming, only few would cry for justice. Little do we realize that each step in the wrong direction has some drastic implications for the future. It only started with games with rape, but what would stop them from banning something else? According to this blog post, the regulations are clearly set in paper now. Some of those regulations are not related to rape right? Who knows when the next big issue comes in that those rules would be further tightened? Who knows when someday sexual inclinations in games would be further reduced until it shouldn’t exist at all?

It’s not that I need ero in my games. As I said, it’s not my genre. But just like the other issue of banning everything hentai in my own country, I hate the reality that other people are dictating what I should and shouldn’t experience in life. It hurts to have no freedom in choosing my hobbies. While these bans don’t affect me, the point is they don’t affect me… yet, with the fear that it will definitely affect me someday.

Let me try to bring a positive note to this though. I admit I don’t know everything about the bishoujo gaming industry, but I imagine each game company’s state of shock looking at those reactions from them. Shock… because this time they have to do a little better. They have to be more creative in either avoiding the restrictions or circumventing them. In short, they should see this as an opportunity to change their ways. Make their own paradigm shift. Innovate. Well, they have rested on their laurels for so long after all. Look at all those bishoujo games, they have not changed all these years. We are still in 800×600 resolutions. Character designs still resemble each other. Storytelling and characters are just rehashes of each other. Sequels galore. Fandisks abound. Where are those innovations in the game engines? Why are the highest-selling games still the sequels? Why can’t the Da Capo multiverse ever ever die (I heard there’s a new DCII sidestory coming out)?

Sure, you can pull me back for a while with your sequels for a moment, but if the technology and creativity of this genre doesn’t change, I’m totally out of this market. You want examples of what I think should improve in this bishoujo gaming industry?

- Umm let’s go HD please? Even just widescreen options would be welcome. It shouldn’t be that hard to upconvert a CG either right? But the bigger problem is the simplistic game engines they use. I liked the one age uses in their games, they move and manipulate 2D as if it were pseudo-3D. Lately the games I see have over-simplistic engines, and only rely on the power of their art. What use are pictures if they’re not presented effectively?
- Virtual girlfriend simulation. Games like this. This time wooing a fictional character shouldn’t just be a simple matter of predetermined decision points. How about incorporating text-based commands first before moving to voice? With some kind of AI engine running a girl’s intricate characterisitics and emotions? Hey, you’ll even help wussies this way by training them for real-life social situations.
- Marketing should be better. This one is hard. They have to open their doors and appeal to newer audiences. They can’t expand their reach unless they do so. Surely, if there are creative games already out there, they must try harder to advertise, because clearly I ain’t hearing them from here.

This is a hard road ahead for everyone of us. I, as a consumer, must do my part as well. For one, we let this restriction in freedom of expression through undetected and undefended. I hope the few still reading this push the awareness further. This is not just about rape games, not about bishoujo games, not about games either. This is about being oppressed by the powers that be. This is about them dictating what is right and what is wrong for us. And someday, this may be about losing our human rights. I don’t like to live in a world like that. But this is not a battle for us to fight for now. I hope that when that time comes, the time when we are directly affected in some way, we should be better prepared for the next wave of battles. Let’s make this a game worth playing.