With the second season of Fruits Basket coming to end, we take a look at what makes Tohru’s relationship with the Somas so remarkably endearing. This article contains no spoilers.

Fruits Basket returns with the same emotion and drama we’ve come to love in the first season. The second season focuses on the rest of the zodiac members and their misfortune bond with Akito. Despite not knowing the entire intricacies behind the curse or the spiritual connection the zodiac members harbor towards Akito, Tohru desperately tries to help the Somas while trying not to overstep her boundaries. 

The spiritual transformations the zodiac members are born with are without a doubt a supernatural element that no one can possibly relate to. However, the emotions and pain they endure throughout both seasons are very much down to earth. Fruits Basket echoes something we are all aware of but unfortunately are quick to forget. People handle day-to-day struggles differently from one another. We have a range of emotions and sometimes it’s hard trying to deal with them. These unfortunate experiences are something we have no control of, but it is something we eventually have to move on from.

Regardless of how someone carries themselves publicly, they might be hiding a terrifying issue that dwells from the bottom of their soul. It might not be our business to intrude on someone’s personal life, but offering a shoulder to lean on, at the very least, could provide the reassuring comfort needed to help make their lives a little easier.  

Forever, Always

Tohru has excelled in showing compassion for others, especially complete strangers. Her humble upbringing has allowed her to always be empathetic, even if she is unsure of the entire situation. Fruits Basket has reminded its viewers to always try to look from the perspective of others and above all, to try to assist whenever possible. There are always going to be issues in our daily lives, that is unquestionably just a part of living. How we chose to overcome these obstacles differ from one another, but a helping hand whenever possible could be the needed assistance to lift someone from their anguish.

The world is too demanding to push on by yourself, everyone needs companionship to help them forget or move on from their worries, suffering and pain. Seeing Tohru throw herself out there, getting right in the middle of the Soma family affair, hoping to ease the burdens of every zodiac member is truly uplifting and extremely inspiring. After being perceived as a nuisance from her Grandfather’s side of the family and losing her mother in a tragic accident, Tohru continues to shine as a beacon of hope, a warm aura of comfort, for so many others. 

Zodiac Curse/Bond

Abuse and neglect seem to be the same problem all of the zodiac members have experienced, be it from Akito himself or from primary family members. Although they seem fine on the surface, deep down they are troubled. Suffering from an unusual curse with a cruel master being the evident perpetrator of their disdain, these members have experienced continuing traumas that no teenager or young adult should be forced to live with.

They’ve endured these hardships since birth and are unable to break free from the shackles of their cursed fate. For some, putting on a smile every day and living as if they were regular people have exhausted them mentally to the point where they break down in tears. It’s a cruel reality that they were given. That was until Tohru came stumbling into their lives. Her cheery personality and innate ability to connect with someone brought forth new hope that many of them can cling onto. She has brought them wonderful memories and another reason to continue to strive through the hardships.

Cherish the Moment

Fruits Basket is a wonderful anime that will make you appreciate your friends and family even more than you already have. More often than not, it will leave you feeling like a puddle of emotions, unable to stop crying from the funny, sad and joyful moments the anime has to offer. The characters are all relatable and each brings their own story or personality to the show.

The Somas are indeed one big troubled family, but as Tohru continues to be a mediator for them, they gradually learn to trust and care for another, just as any family would. Fruits Basket 2019 has far exceeded its expectations and provided the original 2001 series the well-needed justice in their reboot so many years later. Although the exact date has yet to be determined, the third and final season of Fruits Basket is expected to air next year in 2021.   

I’ve talked a bit about Scribd in previous posts so I won’t repeat how much I love that platform. Suffice it to say that it is my “go to” source for content 80% of the time. However, every now and then I run across another book or title that seems interesting on either Audible or Amazon and I feel the necessity of splurging.

In this case, a title that I’m waiting for with baited breadth is the upcoming new release of Book 4 of the Stormlight Archive – Rythm of War. It will only be released in November and I’ve absolutely loved everything else Brandon Sanderson has done so wanted to get this immediatel. As I’m trying to multitask now more than ever, audio books are my go-to source when exercising or even driving around so Audible had to be my port of call. Now I’m not a fan of paying $30 for a book so the monthly $15 membership seemed logical (although if you do the math, I’ll have paid more than $30 by the time the book is actually released) as that would give me credits I could use. Which is where Legend of the Arch Magus comes into the picture.

You see, as a past member of Audible, they were offering a promotion where I could get 2 credits for coming back. So with one credit being dedicated to Rythm of War, I had to find something else to spend the 2nd credit on. Reading the blurb about this book, made it seem like a good, uncomplicated read that could help me fill some time. Surprisingly, the book jacket did not lie!

As fans and readers of this blog know, I’m a fan of SciFi and Fantasy. However, I’ve recently become quite hooked on a sub-genre of Fantasy known as LitRPG or Literature, Role Playing Game. Initially, I thought that this book fell into that category, but without the character sheet elements, as you had a character that progressively got stronger and more capable throughout the course of the series. However, I was fairly quickly disabused of this notion in the early chapters of this book. With this series, the main character is a little bit overpowered (aka a Mary Sue) and with his knowledge, able to do almost anything he wants. There are some growth and development as the body he inhabits is a bit weak, but I’m currently halfway through the 3rd book in the series and he’s yet to run into any significant roadblock.

The book starts with a wizard and his disciples. This wizard (I’ve forgotten his name, to be honest) had attempted to come up with an elixir for everlasting life, but instead, his attempts only ended up killing him. He eventually “woke up” in a different land thousands of years later in the body of a spoiled rotten noble named Lark Marcus. Marcus had been exiled from court and his family due to his actions and he was basically just a drain on society. However, he had been kidnapped for ransom and the criminals who took him went a bit far and ended up unknowingly killing him, giving the wizard the empty shell he needed. This all occurs in the first couple of chapters so I don’t believe I’m ruining anything for you if you were to read it. As the story progresses you come across the accepted tropes you’d be looking for – the redemption of the character (check), character skills growth (check), unbeatable monsters that are handily defeated (check and check).

However, there is also lots of world-building which is nice and one big mystery that has still not been answered – why did he wake up at that time and in that body? Also, considering how advanced he was – you would expect society to continue to advance afterward… but something has curtailed that advancement. What is it? OK, maybe two big mysteries – at the least!!

The book has been written by Michael Sisa and in itself, each book is quite short, however, the good thing with Audible is that they were combined into a two-book omnibus which made it still very palatable and easy to read. The recording and narration itself were quite good with each character being easily recognizable based on the changes in tone and voice. The characters themselves are fairly one-dimensional, good guys are good and bad guys are bad with very little in the way of grey tones. However, if you’re looking for something simple and easy to get into you, you are probably not looking for complex characters in the first place.

[yasr_multiset setid=1]

Overall, I’d probably rate this book quite highly as I did enjoy it and it definitely distracted me and made me want to come back for more. It is by no means perfect – for that, see my feelings on Brandon Sanderson – but it was a lot of fun and I’m very curious to see where Lark ends up in book two and beyond.

Courtesy of Activision

My love for the Tony Hawk games is fairly well known. Part of it is the nostalgia for the series, I’ll admit it, but I’ve also argued in the past that they hold up better than most other games from that era. The lack of any iteration on the formula was eventually what killed the skating game genre, but it also turned out to be what preserved it. I’ve replayed Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 and Pro Skater 4 a few times each this year, and they both remain a ton of fun, even after the better part of two decades. This is largely because there has been no improvements on the genre in the intervening years, so it isn’t hard to pick them back up. So, for the remaster of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2, all that Vicarious Visions really had to do was give the games a face lift, and then let the praise and good reviews flood in. While that is essentially what they did, there is a lot to appreciate in the remasters that weren’t present in the originals.

“There is a lot to appreciate in the remasters that weren’t present in the original”

Let’s get the surface level stuff out of the way; Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 are both very well done remasters that manage to capture the magic of the originals for an aging audience, while remaining appealing and accessible to new players. The core gameplay is mostly the same as it’s always been (although a few moves from later entries in the series, like manuals and reverts,  were added to make the gameplay flow a little better), and it’s been a blast to jump back into the arcade skating fun that the series has always provided. 

All the classic levels return and are largely unchanged in a practical sense, but have been given some aesthetic over hauls so that they look less dated. Everyone is talking about the redesign for the Mall level to make it look more dilapidated and abandoned, giving it more character, but the more impressive one to me was for Venice Beach. The lighting looks better than ever (as is often the case with remasters, the lighting effects make up a lot of the graphical improvements), the graffiti on the walls and ramps adds a ton of character, and the setting sun over the beach as a background to the stage gives it a much more charming feel than it had in the originals. However, these  changes do nothing to change the layout of the level, so fans of the originals will still be able to guide themselves around based on muscle memory. 

Courtesy of Activision

Another thing that Vicarious Visions has taken great pains to preserve is the soundtrack, which features nearly all the classic tracks from the old games. There are a few songs on the playlist that don’t return, but they’ve been replaced with new ones that manage to fit the tone of the games well (unlike that awful dubstep in the abysmal Pro Skater 5).

“Everything that made the games great 20 years ago is still very much intact”

So, for fans of the originals who are looking for a faithful remake of their beloved games, the THPS 1+2 Remaster won’t disappoint. Everything that made the games great 20 years ago is still very much intact, and for a lot of people, that would have been enough. However, while there is nothing revolutionary in these releases, there is more to experience here than there was in the originals. As a matter of fact, there is a a deceptively large amount of content in these games.

While neither game features a story mode, both have around 10 levels each, all of which are packed to the breaking point with things to do. The main “campaign” mode has the player running through each map in two minute increments, completing as many goals as possible within the time frame. After a level has been unlocked, you can do time challenges, speed runs, free skates, score challenges, secret hunting, go searching for all the hidden “gaps” in each level, and so much more. Even a classic level like the Warehouse, a fairly small area, had me skating around it for hours, trying to beat my scores and place in the top one thousand on the global leader boards. After around 35 hours of playtime, none of the levels have started feeling boring yet, and that’s more important than the breadth of empty content that other games feature. 

Courtesy of Activision

There is also an exceptionally well implemented multiplayer mode, which drops you in levels with 7 other players and gives you a variety of objectives to compete for. Some have you simply trying to get the highest score or combo in a 2 minute time frame, while others have you doing tricks off of as many objects as you can to claim them as your own. The drop in is quick and mostly seamless, and the short matches give them that addictive “one more round” quality that suits games like this so well. 

Outside of the core skating gameplay, there are the create-a-skater and create-a-park modes that are staples of the series. Neither is particularly complex, but they add some nice depth to the game. These modes are complemented by a large list of challenges, which can reward the player with cash to spend on cosmetics, profile experience, and unique board graphics and clothing items. There are a huge amount of challenges for every skater in the game (including your own player created ones), every level, and every mode. While the leveling system is incredibly arbitrary, and a transparent way of trying to force player investment, I’ll be damned if it doesn’t work. I spent a lot of time in the game trying to complete challenges, just to watch the progress bar slowly fill, to unlock outfits that I knew full well I would never use. As one final gripe, the create-a-park mode is not very well optimized for controllers, which is odd given that the skating itself seems to be made specifically for controllers. As I mentioned before, there isn’t a lot of depth to it either, but I’d be a lot more upset about it if the rest of the game wasn’t bursting at the seems with fun content. 

At the end of the day, there isn’t a lot to be said about THPS 1+2 Remastered that you couldn’t already assume based off of the name alone. They are the definitive way to play the games, and for my money, they are the best skating games you can get on current gen consoles. If this is a genre, or series, that you’ve ever had any interest in, these will be a must buy for you. 

As a final note, they have split screen too. That alone is enough for the recommendation.

[yasr_multiset setid=2].

An anime that perfectly sums up otaku culture. Genshiken is a 2004 anime that tackles the struggles of those who are overly passionate about anime, manga, gaming and everything in between. This article will contain very mild spoilers.

Genshiken is a slice-of-life comedy anime that centres around an otaku college club. Despite being made nearly two decades ago, the show captures the life of an otaku to perfection. It proves that either otaku culture has not changed nearly as much in the past 15 years, or Genshiken has truly mastered the awkward lifestyle of those passionate in anime, manga and everything else in between must embrace. The show focuses on a group of anime lovers and their hardships with catching up on the latest episodes, doujinshis, figurines and how they deal with the general public regarding their rather niche circle. 

More than meets the eye

Sasahara, a first-year university student appears to be your normal 18, 19 year old freshman. He looks average, is a bit shy and has no other noticeable feature. Surprisingly enough, this average-looking fellow is indeed the main protagonist of Genshiken. A fitting choice considering that anime lovers do, in fact, look like everybody else — completely normal.

He creeps around the rest of the club, trying actively not to look like he’s even remotely interested in anime. His hesitant nature of revealing a somewhat nerdy activity is all too familiar to those who enjoy anime. Even way back then, anime lovers and fans were reluctant to show the world their passion for otaku culture. There was a nasty stigma attached to those who enjoyed anime and manga, and people, much like Sasahara, would never in a million years be willing to publicly proclaim their love for it.

It’s absolutely a shame that someone would feel the need to hide a personal interest of theirs just to appeal to society’s set of long-winded standards. It was presumably much rougher back in the early 2000’s and late 90’s to be an anime fan, but otaku culture has grown significantly since then and so the present generation doesn’t get as much of the slack as their precursors. Sasahara puts his foot down and accepts his true calling as an otaku. He joins Genshiken and miraculously seems like the only sane person in the room.

Sasahara’s overall average build is a testament to those who enjoy anime culture but do not exhibit any physical traits that would suggest it. His mannerism is generally polite and reserved, and is not openly willing to talk about anime unless he himself is asked about it. People like Sasahara do exist. You can absolutely engross yourself in anime but not show a hint of that side in person — not through your choice of clothes, speech, hair or personality. They are a growing bunch and many people still surprisingly are not open to admitting their passion for anime unless they are asked about it directly. 

The irregulars

Kosaka, on the other hand, is someone who has the best of both worlds. On the outside, Kosaka looks like a teenage heartthrob, with wavy blonde hair and a killer smile. He is what you’d imagine someone to look like if they were the protagonist of a high school romance show. Many people in the anime take notice of his cool style and, of course, his handsome look. On the inside, however, Kosaka is a die-hard otaku who spends most of his time gaming in Akihabara.

His girlfriend, Kasukabe, is initially repulsed by Kosaka’s unusual hobbies, but eventually starts to grow on her. In the first season of the show, Kosaka does not, at all, seem all too interested in his girlfriend. He accepts her as a personal love interest but doesn’t show his affection to her at all. Most of the time they are on screen together, Kosaka is quick to depart to some other city to cop the latest poster or compete in a fighter tournament. He is easily one of the most engrossed members of Genshiken but he conceals his geekiness almost too well. Kosaka dresses with style and speaks elegantly to just about everyone. He is most certainly an anomaly that can seamlessly fit in with the cool crowd as well as the geeky bunch. 

The die-hards

Now that we’ve taken a look at two common archetypes found in anime culture, let us venture into the extreme cases that promote the otaku stereotypes. Madarame, a senior in the Genshiken club and a traditional otaku from head to toe, is the backbone of Genshiken and second only to the president.

His skinny frame, sunken cheeks, circle glasses and fangy tooth shouts otaku. If his image doesn’t convince you, maybe his personality might clue you in on the type of guy he is. Madarame is the maximum amount of geekiness an anime and manga lover can be. Whenever he is put in a troublesome situation, Madarame envisions it as if it were a dating simulator, with multiple answers and even more concerning reactions. He is overly defensive of the things he loves and brings up anime or manga whenever possible. As a result, Madarame is in a league of his own when it comes to being socially awkward but tries his best to solve problems using his heightened knowledge of anime culture. Does it always work? Not really, but it does provide hilarious moments that wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for the inner mechanisms of his otaku-driven mind.

He can be overbearing at times, talking non-stop about Kujibiki Unbalance, or another fandom of anime culture, but he is the backbone of Genshiken and a day without Madarame in the club simply would not be the same.

The elitists

Lastly, an anime about otaku culture would not be complete without bringing up the unfortunate elitism that comes with it. A setback that most hobbies or activities are burdened with is the self-righteous bunch who can’t help but put themselves in the spotlight and shun away those who don’t share the same ideals. They set themselves on the highest horse possible and walk down a path with shut ears and blurred vision. Yes, elitism, for whatever reason, was still prevalent back in the early 2000’s and Genshiken did not hesitate to include that in their show.

Despite having the same niche passion, some people can’t help but compare themselves to others and look down upon those who don’t hold up to their standards. It truly is gutless, but that is the case in any fandom where opinions are regarded so heavily. Haraguchi, a heavyset otaku who is involved with the anime and manga society seems like a genuine guy at first, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In actuality, he’s a judgemental two-face who tells Sasahara in secret that the Genshiken club is just a bunch of useless people who take up space and have no talent to give back to the community.

It just goes to show that no matter what interest you might share with others, there will always be a method to devalue a person’s worth or meaning. Fortunately, he very rarely appears in the anime, so viewers don’t have to endure his despicable self for too long.  

To you, 20 years from now

Genshiken has proven the difficulties that otakus in the past had to deal with, and for the most part, what modern anime lovers must continue to deal with today. Regardless, those who enjoy a niche hobby will always find a way to form some sort of connection, or in this case a club.

It may be awkward at first, but if everyone enjoys it, then it will certainly only be a matter of time before unforgettable memories begin to form. Genshiken is a show that embraces a side that routinely gets shunned from a standardized society. It displays the genuine emotion that comes from anime fandom and the bonds it enables among people. Not much has changed in the ways of otaku culture. For sure, you’ll be made fun of by others for enjoying an unusual activity, but that is just a part of accepting a side you don’t need to hide from. It is a part of who you are, so you might as well embrace it!   

Genshiken has two additional seasons after its first, Genshiken 2 and Genshiken Nidaime.