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How To Study

Monday, May 22, 2017 / No Comments
Studying - how almost the entire universe hates it to varying degrees. Thanks to anime (?), the chore feels even more intimidating than imagined. Sure, it is important to study - knowledge is the key to several doors. However, it isn't everything in the world. Nobody's life should ever be predetermined by the education system - just because I haven't qualified for any of my choices doesn't render me a failure. The morale among students is dangerously low enough, so please don't make it worse.



Often, it is never about diligence but an individual's capacity for academics. I mean, there are subjects which no matter how hard we try to break down and process, nothing still makes sense at all. Then, there is also the pressure of repeating a grade or not being able to further one's education. Honestly, a full certificate is mainly for show - how much of what we used to study still applies today in our lives? 



Unfortunately, whatever reasons students may have for not performing to expectations, they are largely ignored as nobody really cares for what they can't see until something tragic happens or something. It is easily a vicious cycle. Ultimately, it boils down to survival at its finest - just find a way to get by this scary period for now. 


If you simply can't study another line, don't force - the situation isn't going to improve anyway. Just free your clouded mind as you deem appropriate. Yeah, moderation is still vital here! Nobody is preventing you from playing your favourite computer games, but do exercise some restraint - it is after all a break.


Bribery is a good if not the perfect way to motivate somebody into studying for just a little while longer. Never ever underestimate the power it has over the human mind. I would so go for that slice of cake as if my sanity depends on it. Then again, it is also about lifting up the mood.


Or if you have some fundamentals of concentration like how martial arts practitioners would gather all their energy to the centre or core or whatever they call it for maximum performance, studying in the state of oblivion is probably another method, though I really won't go that far. I mean, the last one is just ouch!


Finally, if you happen to be gifted with magic or supernatural abilities, studying should be a little more relaxing (?) since the transference of information into the brain would be something like that - the surroundings just contort to the unleashing of your powers! Well, just don't end up destroying the school or your house or wherever you are in the process.

Eccentrically Yours.

Written by J.Fluffysheep ♪
 

Devi's Japan Travels Part 1: Fukuoka

Thursday, May 18, 2017 / 2 Comments

Hello everyone, welcome to my blog!

I am Devi, I have studied Japanese because I love anime, and my first blogs will be about my one month travel in Japan. Four years ago we have done a road trip only around Kyushu, this time we will go further. The first three weeks of this trip are together with my husband, and the last 10 days are by myself. After traveling in Japan for one month I will finally settle in Singapore. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu (nice to meet you)! This blog will be cut up in different parts because my travels were quite long, and every day was an adventure.

Day 1: Arrival in Fukuoka

The day after I arrived in Singapore, it was already time to fly to Japan. We flew with Korean Air and arrived in Fukuoka in the morning of sunday march 19th.

Arriving for the 4th time in Fukuoka, it was like coming home. The place I studied at for one year, it didn't change much in its appearance, but I know it did. My old dormitory is no more as well as some campuses. So the first thing to do is, take a subway to the hotel. Fukuoka airport is really close to the city center, so that's a big advantage of flying to Fukuoka. You can just take the subway, and within 20 minutes/half an hour you are in the city center.
I put my T-money card, the subway card for South-Korea, into the ticket machine, silly me! Of course I still had my Suica card from 10 years ago that I bought in Tokyo, and it still works. Suica is the prepaid card with which you can get on the subway, trains, buses, practically everything. In some places you can also pay by suica such as konbini's (short for convenience store). After arriving at the hotel we had a rest and then we decided to get some food. So what's the first thing that pops in mind when you think of Japanese food? Well, for us it's sushi! We were staying in Nakasu, which is, not the best district in Fukuoka. But it is conveniently near Canal City, which is a big complex full of shops and restaurants. So we decided to head there.
After eating some nice sushi for a reasonable price we explored around a bit in Canal City. There are a lot of fountains, and just when we were there a fountain show started, with fountain-water spraying up and down to music. Also, the architecture of Canal City is very nice, definitely worth visiting when visiting Fukuoka.


Afterwards we headed for the city center: Tenjin. We walked around a bit, there are a lot of shopping malls here. I used to come here often when I was a student. What was very nostalgic to me were the street light songs. You don't hear them often anymore nowadays in Japan I have noticed. Here are two of the songs you can still hear in Tenjin:

 
 The sadder one is called Toryanse and is an old children's song. Some people find this song creepy but for me it has the memories connected to Fukuoka in it so I just feel nostalgic when hearing it. After going to Tenjin core, the main shopping mall for youngsters, we went to Daimyo, the district with nice bars, restaurants, karaoke, and etc. We wandered around a bit until I realized I wanted to see if my favorite restaurant was still open, and it was! It has a very low door so it's easy to recognise but not easy to find. I used to come here and eat their 'Tako Raisu', or taco rice, an Okinawan dish I really like with rice and on top of that basically most things that go in a taco with a Japanese twist.

I would definitely recommend this place, they have other yummy treats too like crepes. After eating we walked around in Daimyo and I talked about the past and felt like an old lady, summing up stores that used to be there but are long gone and have changed. After getting some snacks we went to our hotel room and finally had a rest. I had been traveling a lot and still had some jetlag. In our hotelroom we had some snacks, like my husbands favorite pocky or Koala's March:
We stayed in Hakata Nakasu Washington Hotel Plaza. About Japanese hotels: don't expect the staff to speak English. We had some questions but I guess I had to use my Japanese for them to understand. That's ok and all, but I can imagine for someone that doesn't speak the language that Japan can be a challenging country sometimes to travel in. Also, most (average) hotels seem as if they were built in the 80's and have never really been updated. The bathroom was just a standard one, one I used to have in my dorm room 10 years ago. The toilet seats are often heated so that's nice, but space-wise don't count on a lot of space in Japanese hotel rooms, unless you pay the big bucks of course. The one thing I disliked was that we had a smoking-room. In Japan there are smoking and non-smoking rooms. As a non-smoker, I found it disappointing that there weren't any non-smoking rooms left, and the smell of the room is pretty appalling to me and my sensitive nose. Also, if you want to go to Fukuoka, book in advance as there aren't many hotels there (this was even confirmed by an old-colleague that worked at the consulate and also some local friends). I did not know about this 4 years ago when we were last here, and it was really hard to get a hotel room on the day itself. So book plenty of time in advance and you will be all set!

Day 2: Friend's Wedding

The next day was the big day of my friends wedding. I met my Polish friend 10 years ago when we were classmates, a group of about 19 people that were doing an intense Japanese language and culture course. He was marrying his long-time Chinese girlfriend and the wedding was lovely. Located near the airport, the wedding venue was really nice. Especially the chapel in which they got married:
  Due to the privacy of the newlyweds I won't upload pictures of their wedding, but nobody said anything about the dessert bar!

After the chapel wedding ceremony, we went to the dining hall and had some extremely delicious buffet. And after that the above dessert bar, which was a-ma-zing. The Japanese service was sublime. They were all standing in a row and came to ask you frequently if you wanted something to drink. All you had to do is turn your head towards them. After eating we did some funny games: in the beginning before the ceremony we got a little book with all the attending people by number, everyone had an introduction of themselves (including us) like where we were from, our hobbies, and etc. After dinner we found out why we had this little book, we were going to play bingo! So we got a sheet, and we had to put the number of people in the squares answering some questions like: who do you think is very smart, who do you think could drink a lot, and etc. It was a fun game, and eventually they called out numbers they drew from a box and a Chinese girl from our table won, the prize was a big bag of Chinese candy. We also got to see some embarrassing baby pictures and also pictures growing up of both the bride and groom. And of course speeches from both family members and friends. The groom even sang for the bride, which was quite an emotional moment.
After the game they cut the cake and we could enjoy the dessert bar and the cake. It was really nice and I got to know some new people. This was the first time I was present at a wedding ceremony as well in Japan. I have been to a 'Nijikai' before, an 'after' wedding party (so not including the ceremony) so I felt really honoured to be part of that as well. We even received some presents at the end of the party: high class hand towels, boxes of Chinese candy and a box of muffins. We gave our gifts and wished them a blessed marriage. After that we left, luckily they had a shuttle bus service to some stations, we were dropped off at Hakata station which isn't that far from Nakasu. So we took the subway and after a very nice day went to our hotel room. Late at night we met up with a good friend of mine, had some Matcha latte (my favorite) and talked about the good old times, and about everyone we knew. After that we called it a day.

Day 3: Hugging babies and off to Kagoshima

This is the day we will pick up our rental car! We got a Nissan Latio, and it was a spacious car compared the last one we had 4 years ago (Nissan Moco, cute and compact but no power). I love the Japanese parking system, they put cars so efficiently in buildings! When we got our car we got it from this 'vending machine' style parking lot.
 
After receiving the car we were on our way to Kagoshima, with a quick stop at my best friend's home in Fukuoka. She had her first baby just a few weeks before we arrived so I was eager to meet her little baby girl. After talking to her, holding her baby girl and seeing her parents again, it was time to leave for Kagoshima. I really love road trips. It's really nice to just take a car and go wherever you want to. Of course, I made a tight schedule and hotel reservations (which again, I recommend for you to do before going to Japan), so we did have goals. I really liked the highways in Japan, except for the prices. Really, those toll fares are VERY high. Before you can enter a highway there is a toll-booth.
Drivers can get an ETC card, which allows you to automatically go through the booth. We had to take the 'Ippan' meaning ordinary. So the non-ETC card holders could take a ticket there, opening the barrier. Then, arriving at tollbooth where you want to get off the highway you give that ticket and then pay for your toll. For more information and calculation of the toll you can visit: http://global.w-nexco.co.jp/en/
After going through the tollbooth, there are pitstops on the side of the highways. Some of them are really nice in the mountains, and have konbini's, food courts, and rows and rows of vending machines.
Of course you can also buy gifts and souvenirs, or 'omiyage' in Japanese. Omiyage are often used as a gift/souvenir you bring when you visit friends/family, usually something edible and from that certain district you have visited. This time I brought gifts from my home country to my friends. These pitstops next to the highways have omiyage stores as well with various edible and non-edible goods. I particularly liked the Gudetama and Kumamon goods.
The Kumamoto Castle Gudetama was a limited edition, as we were in Kumamoto. They often do mascot/character themes in different districts: 10 years ago I had a reasonable Hello Kitty keychain collection from all over Japan, each Hello Kitty had an outfit stressing a place's special features. For example, the Kyoto Hello Kitty was dressed traditionally in a kimono and the Kagoshima Hello Kitty is dressed as a Kurobuta, the famous 'black pig' from Kagoshima. I really enjoy these characters in 'local' contexts. It's also nice souvenir to bring people back home. Of course we can't forget about the Kumamon boxers. Obviously, everyone needs Kumamon boxers.
And various other things.
After eating some gyoza and stacking up on the CC Lemon, my favourite lemon soda in Japan with vitamin C (as if it would make me healthy, one can only dream), onwards to Kagoshima! We both have a sweet tooth, so on the way I was suddenly reminded of the muffins we got at my friends wedding! Boy was I grateful for them, because they were ab-so-lutely delicious!!! I usually really love the chocolate ones, but this time the black-sesame won by a small margin. I really love black sesame icecream and this was my first time eating a black sesame muffin. It was truly great and were still moist even after one night. As you can see below, I took a picture with the card.
So the place is called Franny's Basket, sometimes it's hard getting katakana words correct hehe. They are located in Kitakyushu, I will definitely visit if I am ever in the neighbourhood. In the meantime, onwards, Kagoshima awaits!
After driving for 4 hours, we finally made it. I have been in Kagoshima before, but not by car. I really enjoy how the city looks different from Fukuoka, and can't wait to explore it more.
Thus we come to the end of my first blog. Fukuoka is always a personal trip for me, a time to catch up with old friends and enjoy my Japanese 'hometown'. Therefore this blog was full of more personal stories. I hope you enjoyed it and the next blogs will be more about our trips in Kagoshima and the more touristy stuff we did, so tune in for some more Devi's Japan travels!


Written by Devi

Depression due to Gacha Games?

Wednesday, May 17, 2017 / No Comments
Have you ever gotten a bout of depression? How about depression due to a game?
For those who follow me, you'll know that I play Love Live School Idol Festival (SIF) a lot and even now when I'm half-out of the fandom, I still enjoy the game and being competitive on it is really fun for me. I have met many wonderful people on the subreddit as well as in the game itself and still keep in contact with them over Discord. And recently, one of my longest friends on there told me she is going to quit the game.

"I think it's giving me depression. I have been getting 1 SR scouts since the new update and now even looking at the scouting page gives me anxiety. It gets difficult to breathe and my vision goes blank... it lasts for hours on end and sometimes I get so depressed over my scouts that I can't bring myself to go to class for days."

Wow, that's...serious.
It isn't difficult to recognize the symptoms of depression, especially with my minor in Psychology, but it always hurts to see friends succumb to it and leave a game they love for that reason. And for the record, this reason isn't rare for gacha games since these gambling types of games really tear away at your mind. Imagine saving for months and getting something crappy for all your scouts... it feels like all your efforts just went down the drain.

And it's not just for games. It's so for kuji as well. I mean... though it is advertised as "winning a prize no matter what you get"---but face it, getting a keychain or stickers (Prize I, H, etc) as opposed to a figure (Prize A, B and the likes), especially of a character you don't fancy... hurts. For a figure collector like myself, at the very least.
As a player of so many gacha games and the occasional kuji, I have had my fair share of disappointments. For instance, scouting 350 gems and 15 tickets for Ball/Victorian set and ending up with neither of the URs. And let me get this out there because both UR Kotori and Nozomi from that set are my dream URs of them.

Despite so, I have never been into depression due to SIF, however I do go into some low moods due to hormones. For those, I get considerably worse due to stress over school and it feels like the worst thing ever on the surface on Earth that can happen to me then... but in hindsight, it's nothing on the level of my friend. The motivation to do things (like getting to school or completing an assignment) would be super low, but I'm still able to get work done despite spending like 30% more time on it than I really should. Going by that, it's probably just mild depression at best so to consider having depression on the level of what my friend is going through -- like I don't want to get out of bed today, I feel like I should just cry in bed because I suck and the world sucks and why do I even exist because I'm just wasting space and resources on this Earth and heck no one wants me to be here either, or even suicidal -- for days on end is simply unthinkable to me.
So are gacha games good for you and when should you take a break from then? From spending?

I'm a fan of gacha games because it is something that keeps me pinning for more. It keeps me thinking that I could have gotten better stuff if I scout several minutes later or scouted more... it's things like that that keeps me playing, and also these same things that tick me off. SIF has more of such salt due to the friend notifications system that gives notifications to all your friends when you get a UR, SSR and SR, which is cool when you are the one who gets the UR but not that cool when one of your friend just scouted 2 copies of your dream UR. I'm serious.

And in addition to that, we also have the lovely subreddit that can be this salty sea at times with the 2 UR (or more) scouts because we all like to pine after what we could have but didn't get.
Gacha games run on the genre of gambling and being addicted to the gacha parts of games basically means you are addicted to gambling. Given, with each 50 gems pull being only 40-odd dollars, the stakes aren't that high as compared to gambling in casinos, and you aren't doing more dangerous stuff like drugs... but you can use that argument almost anywhere are so it doesn't really hold. Hm.

So is being P2P healthy? Why not? I think if you are loving the fun of slight gambling and spending a little to make your gaming life fun, and especially if it doesn't interfere with your life and savings. And if you don't regret spending on a game that will most likely shut down their servers someday... so much... then go ahead!
However, if you ever feel like you need a break or if you get too heartbroken over the gacha aspect, do take a step back and reweigh your options just as my friend did :)

~ Reina-rin

How To Keep Cool

Monday, May 15, 2017 / No Comments
Well, the weather has been terrible of late. Sure, there is considerable rainfall all across the country, but the humidity is driving a lot of people crazy. I am not exaggerating when I say we could literally turn into sweat puddles here. Anyway, it is important to cool down as always, though drinking water itself doesn't seem very helpful anymore. Let's get a little crazier, shall we?


Okay, who am I kidding? Snowballs in a tropical country? But I bet it is so much fun trying (not) to kill each other by pelting one snowball after another. I don't know if using ice cubes would trigger a similar effect - then again, ice cubes might just kill anybody unless you crush them in advance or something. Ah, I want to see snow...okay, never mind. 


If you happen to possess the gift of magic (delusional or otherwise), perhaps summoning an avalanche might help improve the situation. I am sure nothing beats a huge downfall of frozen water over people, people and more people. Water guns are too troublesome, since you have to manually reload them. An avalanche is better, seriously.


Oh, you don't look too happy here! Had too many slices of watermelon? Hmm, I love watermelon - actually, I prefer them juiced and chilled for hours. But it should be fun disembowelling watermelons just like how those anime characters do during summer. Then, you can spit watermelon seeds at each other and try (not) to kill each other with the skins.


Or if you have already sort of lost it under the weather, you might want to try force-feeding fluids - okay, that doesn't look very enticing to begin with, not when it looks like potential murder at the same time. Argh! Stop it, stop it! Moving on...


Swimming is a healthy, affordable option worth considering if you don't mind the idea of a little exercise as well. I prefer soaking inside the pool though, or splashing water at other patrons...I mean, friends! Hmm, that reminds me of water bombs - as a kid I had played them in school with the rest of the class. Of course, none of us had thought of the consequences beforehand. In fact, nobody would!


Honestly, if nothing else works effectively for you, just get intimate with the electric fan (or the air-conditioner). Uh, it is probably a good idea to maintain a bit of distance between you and the appliance, unless you fancy disfiguring part of your face in the process. Then again, the electric fan has always been a saviour. Aaaaaah...

Eccentrically Yours.

Written by J.Fluffysheep ♪

Little Witch Academia

Saturday, May 13, 2017 / No Comments

Growing up, I was an avid fan of the Harry Potter novels. The concept of a wizarding school was unique at the time and I bet every 11-year-old wished they could receive the acceptance letter from Hogwarts. I even pre-ordered the final volume of the series and blazed through all 600-odd pages on the day it was released. Since then, I have not read or watched anything detailing the lives of aspiring witches and wizards, till Studio Trigger's Little Witch Academia came along earlier this year. 



My expectations were lofty, seeing that Trigger was the very studio that produced Kill la Kill and Space Patrol Luluco, among other successful projects. The OVAs that preceded the two-cour television anime generated much buzz as well, with the first one being part of the Anime Mirai project back in 2013 and the second film having an overwhelmingly successful Kickstarter campaign. It managed to meet its US$150,000 in a few hours. One might even suspect that the production team actually knew magic.



Unfortunately, the first thing I noticed from the first episode was the simplicity of the art. By now, I'm used to photorealistic backgrounds and seeing minute details such as the creases on a shirt and individual strands of hair. Although the actual animation itself was fluid, the simplicity of the art and character designs were jarring. However, the voice acting and humour made up for this flaw, but it didn't always work. For example, episodes with more exposition and still frames left me thinking whether I was watching a show on Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon circa 2000. Similarly, the humour had a decidedly 'western' feel, utilising gags and tricks I recognised from cartoons I watched when I was a child. Looney Tunes, anyone?



On the flip side, there is an attention to detail that rewards the more observant viewers. There are a chock full of references, be it to professional gaming, popular culture or even famous characters. Managed to spot Hellboy's hand, Mjolnir and Batman's utility belt in the image above? Studio Trigger even recreated common household items like a Kitchen Aid mixer and a Staedtler pencil. These mundane tools were actually important in highlighting how industrious and precise a particular character was.


The cast expands quickly as the series progresses. At first, there are three. The clumsy but energetic Kagari Atsuko (or Akko for short), the stereotypical bookworm Lotte Jansson and finally, the eccentric Sucy Manbavaran. The latter resembles a typical witch the most, concocting dangerous potions in her free time and pranking Akko on a regular basis. Soon, the student body, teaching staff and even general staff members are introduced through the course of the season. Each character has a distinct personality and members from the supporting cast do have their moments; plenty in fact, with whole episodes being dedicated to them. The artwork may not be the most detailed but the same can't be said for character development.


Although an overarching plot is revealed at the start of the second cour, the pacing of the first half nearly killed my interest. It used an episodic format, common in both western cartoons and comedy anime. Unfortunately, the jokes felt stale and formulaic. It usually involved Akko resolving a problem she caused in the first place, with a few missteps along the way due to how inept she was as a witch. I feel that the backstories and motivations of the characters should've been explored more instead. This was where the second cour came in, improving the pace and making Little Witch Academia something to look forward to, week in and week out. Perhaps my judgement would be less harsh if I binge watch it in a month's time instead.


Little Witch Academia is a late bloomer, much like its main character. It might not have the prettiest artwork and funniest jokes but the characters and attention to detail more than make up for those flows, along with an impressive second cour. It might just inspire other studios to take a crack at producing or adapting Harry Potter-esque anime too. I'm a sucker for student wizards and witches slipping up and getting tongue-tied while chanting spells. When done right, they are much more charming than the finished product slinging spells left and right with little to no effort.

Written by ET