Thus spoke Titan – Part III

“Where is he?”

Hank’s anger didn’t give her any time to reply. He struck her hard across the face, with the flat of his heavy hand, throwing her against the wall mirror, shattering it.

“He’s not here, Hank! I haven’t seen him in weeks.”

She clasped her hand to her cheek and could almost feel the dark bruise blossoming right beneath her eye socket. She’d end up with two fresh one on her shoulder and hip as well. No client would touch her like that for days. The thought made her grimace.

“Please, Hank, leave me alone. Taros left! He’ll never be back. Just leave me the fuck alone already!”

The rage burning in Hank’s head was a furnace spewing out blood red flames. The black bruise covering his eye told him a very different story about Taros’ so called disappearance. He couldn’t be gone. No one else would have dared lay a hand on him in the dark. No one else would dare shatter his good arm with a rock so that it could never heal up properly.

If not for his splintered arm, he would have killed Jinx there and then, beat her into a bloody red paste and thrown her corpse in the dumpsters beneath the bordello. It was only pain that held him back, the shrill cutting pain in his cracked ribs that had almost made the previous blow too much to bear. He told himself that much, at least.

“Get over here, bitch!”

He spat the words at her as his good arm undid his belt. If he couldn’t get his hands on the bastard, he’d make do with his slut instead. Let him come to her after that.

Taros…listened.

He lay on his back on the cold roof of the bordello, smoking a bent cigar, and listening very, very carefully. His knuckles still hurt from what he had done to Hank the night before. It would be nothing compared to what he’d do to him this night.

But first, Jinx needed a fallback. It would have been too easy, entirely too easy to cave Hank’s head in with that boulder instead of settling for his arm. But that would have left his sister in too much shit, not to mention the other girls. A bordello at least offers some type of protection for those unfortunate enough.

Whatever Hank thought he was doing, he was quick about it. Taros allowed himself a smile at the idea of ‘embarrassingly quick out it’. He waited until he heard Hank’s rasping breathing head away and the door to Jinx’s room slam shot. The sound of her heavy iron bolt drawing into position was unmistakable.

After long minutes, he heard her voice, quiet as a whisper, by her window.

“Come back in. He’s gone.” If she had cried, there was not a trace of that in her voice. She still sounded as sweet as a young girl tending a farm somewhere. His heart ached at the very form of that thought.

Slowly, carefully, he slid back down to her balcony and landed soundlessly next to her. She was bent at the waist over the railing of her balcony, smoking a thin, light smelling cigarette. Her hair hung loose over the right side of her face, covering what Taros assumed was her lovely new bruise. She was naked under her gown, her body’s outline visible through the smoke thin fabric. Light pouring off of the bordello’s large iridescent rose left little to the imagination.

“You shouldn’t have done that.” Her voice wasn’t angry but her hands trembled. “We’ve gained nothing by it.”

Taros lit a cigarette as well, walking inside her parlor instead of joining her. The Flower had too many curious eyes lolling about listlessly.

“He deserved it; and much more.” He answered back, just as calm as her; his eyes examined the shattered remains of her mirror. “At least you’ll have a few years of good luck after this.” He tried to chuckle but the joke didn’t feel particularly funny even to himself. “Did you cut yourself?”

Jinx ran her fingers down her arm, slowly, carefully checking.

“I’ll have a bad bruise, I guess. But no, not cuts anywhere.” She flicked her cigarette into the darkness below and walked back in, throwing herself on her back on her bed, her palms over her face, sighing deeply.

“What were you thinking, Taros? You know he beats the girls when he gets in a sour way. You broke his fucking arm.” She let her arms rest on her sides, watching the gentle swaying of the bed’s drapes with a faraway look in her eyes. “At least get rid of the glass since you’re here. I don’t feel like dealing with it.”

The dark skinned elf obeyed. He was responsible for the mess, after a fashion, so in a few minutes he felt comfortable that she could walk around bare footed once again. Elven blood attracted the wrong kind of attention. Neither of them needed it.

“Come here, Taros.” As he threw the last of the shards over the balcony she raised her arms and invited him into her bed.

He did not come.

“What’s the matter?” She asked him, raising herself up on her elbows. Her hair hung to the wrong side of her face and he could clearly see the bruise in bloom, dark blue on dark red on her pale skin. It was grotesque to him, that someone could tarnish her.

“If I come, I may end up doing something worse tonight to him.” He replied, taking a seat instead in the only armchair of the small, lavishly decorated room. “I’ll head out tonight. Get some air. Stay away from this place and see if I can find somewhere to move us.”

“Wear a hood or something.” She warned him, pushing herself into a sitting position. “Tonight’s not a good night to be an elf on the town; especially not one that can’t keep his temper in check.” She flashed him a girlish smile. “You’ll manage. Just be careful.”

Taros kissed her forehead softly and caressed her cheek, before heading out into the darkness. He eased himself back up unto the roof and traversed the few adjacent roofs of the bordello, coming down in a tight alleyway between a butcher’s shop and something that smelled of various chemicals, at the very edge between the Alchemists’ Quarter and the Merchants’ Agora. The general smell of the place hung somewhere in between gut wrenching and a crime against the sense of smell, so he did not linger.

Dark tendrils of nighttime mist coiled around his shoulders and feet as they spilled out of the Alchemists’ Quarter, bringing with them the various smells of alchemy; and also anonymity, for what it was worth to him. He wore a sleeveless dark leather jerkin and matching soft leather pants. He wore no weapon that could be seen, nor did he really need one. Even on the busiest lamp lit streets, he would never be more than a skulking shadow.

How easy it would have been to track Hank down and slice his throat.

‘…how fucking easy’.

He pushed the thought away, but it came back, eagerly snapping at the heels of his consciousness.

Hank had hit Jinx. He had beaten her even before Taros had broken his arm. He had forced himself on her and betrayed the trust they had offered him when first they came to Titan. That was unforgivable. That could not stand. He would die for it, and it wouldn’t be quick when it happened.

Taros walked into the night, heading towards the heart of the Agora, still thinking his dark thoughts. He’d been scouring Titan for days now, trying to find another place that took in elves, one that he could trust with Jinx’s safety. Few establishments would accept strangers, even fewer would still talk to him once they took note of his ears. Their money had dwindled away turns back and Titan was too set against his kind to offer any chance of decent employment.

Heading out and away from Titan itself could have been a good idea if they had gotten their wits beaten into them spans earlier. Braving the roads now, as beggars, worse than rats, was suicidal at best.

His thoughts ran in circles inside his head, a million times thought over, a million times left frustratingly unresolved.

Today was the breaking point, the last straw. The tattered remains of his honor would not allow for Jinx to be harmed again; or touched again by that ogre of a human. He felt himself snarling at the very thought of it.

Tonight he would stoop to pick pocketing. Tomorrow…maybe he’d try and use some of his half-forgotten better skills. His hands itched for the comfort of his blades and a dark, twisted thing inside him echoed that longing of the muscles. Hank would not live out the week, of that Taros became unmistakably certain as he ghost walked through the swelling crowd.

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Thus spoke Titan – Part II

Part II

 

“You know…sometimes it feels as if I’ve got this white hot fire in the pit of my stomach, eating away at me. It doesn’t matter what I do, what I drink, what I eat, who I fuck; it just keeps burning away at me, out of control, maddening. I feel just so…” Jake took a moment and looked up at the ceiling, trying to find his words.

“Angry. I feel angry, destructive. I just want to take my wrench and bash Tummy’s head in, bash Jenna’s teeth in, smear that louse Drell’s smirk all over his fucking globe.”

Jake looked up again, chewing his lip in his most thoughtful look. The man sitting by the padded sofa on which he lay scribbled furiously in a notebook, turning page after page. This particular session was going splendidly, absolutely splendidly, with real breakthroughs.

As Jake studied the intricate painted patterns on the ceiling, his own face came into view, looking down at him. His own hands gripped the cushions by his head, drumming his fingers over the velvet.

“Jake, you’ve never even been to a fucking psych. I don’t think you even know what a psych actually looks like.” The voice he recognized as his own, right down to his shittiest sarcastic tone. “Even for us, this…this is kind of pathetic Jake.”

The Jake on the sofa made to reply, but a hand clasped over his mouth.

“Pay attention to the job and stop the mental wank off. This little misery complex is embarrassingly stupid.” The voice went on, and his doppelganger smacked him over the top of his head.

The room shattered and the sound of its falling debris shocked Jake back into full wakefulness, the fantasy evaporating like night mist into sunlight. He yawned and looked down, over the edge of the elevator’s carriage, but the bottom was still swallowed in darkness. He shrugged and leaned back against the grate, intent on dozing off for a few minutes more at least, lulled by the rhythmic shaking.

 Getting roused out of bed in the middle of the night, on a vacation day, meant that he was hung over, sloppily dressed and in a foul mood. Being chastised by his imaginary self wasn’t improving things any.

With a jerk and a screech the elevator stopped at the bottom of the chasm, the huge system of pulleys and gears grinding to a halt. Draft whispers and the chilly underground air made his hair stand on end as he walked out, grunting as he carried his tool box towards the check post.

Where the fuck was Tummy? The heavy lifting was his duty. Images of a bloody wrench danced a grizzly dance in the back corners of his imagination.

“Morning Jake.”

“It’s not morning yet Grus. It’s the middle of the fucking night.”

Jake leaned over the small counter of the guard station, picked up the pencil and the ledger, and signed himself in. The old guard of the graveyard shift just barely looked at him over the evening edition of The Clarion Call.

“Mister Toh’Um came in a bit earlier. I don’t think he went up to the surface at the end of his shift last evening.” Grus offered the information, eyeing the tool box that Jake was barely trying to get through the check point tourniquets.

“Say…Grus?” Jake straightened his back, and then leaned down, looking through the small glass opening over the counter. “Why the fuck is Tummy ‘Mister Toh’Um’ to you? You never call me ‘Mister Pryd’.”

Grus merely ruffled his paper and continued reading, answering in the calm tone of those having to deal with late shift workers every single night.

“Anyone that can rip a man’s arm off and shove it where the Sun don’t shine, while cracking a smile, is a ‘Mister’ in my book. Jake, let me know when you send someone out of a bar with one more leg than they had coming in, and you’ll get the same distinction.”

Jake snorted and hauled off, dragging the heavy box with him, clanking and cussing as he made his way deeper into the compound. At least he knew that he didn’t have to deal with Ol’ Fang Face on his own in THE MIDDLE OF THE FUCKING NIGHT!

“Morning Jackey.”

He found Tummy in the maintenance office, already changed into his overalls, reading a small book. In those hands, a tome of any size would look like a pocket edition.

“It’s the middle of the fucking night Tummy. Normal people screw, drink or sleep at this hour, not work.”

His hands and forearms ached. His back ached. His eyes felt red and itchy. His stomach was in full revolt.

And on top of all that came Tummy’s annoyingly cheerful mood and his stupid little round spectacles on his enormous, meaty face. Jake felt an eye twitching.

“Oh come now, don’t be like that. At least it’s in the morning and not during the rest day. We’ve worked night shifts before.” Tummy closed his book and got up, heading towards the tool box. He lifted it as if it were feather light and turned towards Jake, looking expectant.

“You’re not going to change into work clothes?” Tummy asked, raising an eyebrow. “It’s Ol’ Fang Face down there. It’s gonna be messy.”

“Oh, push off. We go in. We change the gear. We go out. I aim to be back in bed by the cocks’ crow.”

“Suit yourself then.”  The orc walked out into the hallway, behind Jake who had lit a gas torch. Milky white light showed their way through deserted corridors, down flight after flight of stairs, heading ever deeper into the factory. The silence was barely broken by the clanking of tools and the muffled sounds of footsteps. Lathes, grinders, presses and other machinery slept quietly in the huge machine rooms, and hand tools hanged from the ceiling, still as a painting, eerily quiet. The factory only shut down this complete on Celebration Days.

Everything stopped for the Celebration Days; except for Ol’ Fang Face. He never slept. He never tired.

He just liked to make life unpleasant for any luckless maintenance worker at the worst possible moment.

Jake’s lantern led them down a spiraling shaft where the years had worn the stone steps smooth and slippery, treacherous for anyone new on the job. A dull, rhythmic clanking echoed as they headed into the heart of Titan. It echoed off the stone walls and, as they descended, they could feel the dull vibrations through the soles of their boots, stronger and stronger.

“I don’t hear any whining.”

Jake noted as the steps ended and the dark corridor of the extraction area stretched ahead of them. The walls were trembling slightly, a heartbeat echo running throughout. At that distance, they normally should have been hearing a shrill metallic whine of broken metal teeth and misaligned joints grinding together. There was nothing now, just the familiar thumps in the stone walls.

“You think one of the motors went bad?” Tummy ran a mental inventory of the spare parts they had in storage down there. It would be unpleasant to go back for something. “I think we’ve got the one you fixed a few turns back. I don’t think you ever took it back up.”

“Yeah, been meaning to, forgot all about it in the end.”

The long walk had cleared Jake’s mood somewhat. Work was work and no amount of bellyaching on his part would make it go away. Once the unpleasant task was before him, he had no choice but to get it done.

“It does sound too clean to be a gear. Didn’t they say it was a bad gear again?” They walked forward, listening to the sounds of the great machine thundering all around them.

“Technically, they just said Fang Face wasn’t delivering anything up. They assumed it was another one of those times where he’s broken off the gear when trying to lift amber.”

“’IT’. We’ll find ‘IT’ and see what’s wrong with ‘IT’.”

Jake stressed the word, automatically. Everyone talked about Fang Face as if it were a person. That, somehow, seemed wrong to him. Fang Face couldn’t be a person more than his wrench could, and it’d be a very long night of very hard drinking before he’d have any spiritual talks with his tool box.

Tummy ignored him pointedly.

“What…is he doing?”

The white light of the lantern grew paler as they walked and finally melded into the pale green of Fang Face’s lair, the crystal light spilling out of the large archway guarding the deep underground grotto. Transparent crystal glass served as gates, tempered to resist even dragon fire, siege weapons, magic of most sorts and even most of Titan’s worst shakes. If the whole complex would cave in on itself, the grotto and its gates had to survive.

“Good question Tummy. I haven’t the fuckiest idea.”

They both watched, gaping, a few steps away from the crystal gateways. The looming figure of Fang Face was banging its massive head against the innermost door, drawing slim cracks in the crystal with each hit.

 “Jackey?”

Tummy managed to sound almost unconcerned, dropping the tool box and rolling his shoulders as if nothing was unusual. With one massive hand he arranged his small, round spectacles on the top of his nose and took a step closer to the gate.

“Yeah, Tummy?”

“Why do you think he has legs now?”

Jake’s gaze dropped from the fissures in the glass, almost as if smacked over the head, focusing sharply at the base of Ol’ Fang Face.

“Tummy, that is a good fucking question.”

Thus spoke Titan – Part I

Part I

 

‘Why, in the name of the Celestial, would they need this many stairs?’

It was not the first time Emil had asked himself this, and it probably wasn’t to be the last either. The spiraling staircases and terraces of the often exploded, often rebuilt, often incinerated Alchemists’ Quarter stretched out before him, layer over layer of twisted, twisting architecture. It was getting dark and the choking smoke of the lamps had risen enough to hide the place’s less savory parts.

‘How will I ever find Master Ludwig through all this?’

He looked despondent at the twirling towers and oddly shaped masonry gargoyles that guarded every nook and cranny, trying to find at least the church his own Master Barke had pointed towards.

Two flights of stairs up as you pass the Church of Old Hope on the right alley, a sharp turn to the left before the cliff, two flights of stairs down and by the collapsed well, were the instructions his master had given before sending him away to fetch the old wizard. How he’d manage that, Emil hadn’t the slightest clue.

There was no point in waiting around for the old man to reveal himself out of the thickening oily mist, so he chose the least twisted direction he could still discern in the dark, and clambered on. For as much smoke as the lamps produced, the greenish light they offered could barely illuminate two steps around each post and he wondered what the point of such street torture could be.

Something exploded somewhere below, illuminating the fog briefly. Someone screamed and cussed, others laughed, their voices carrying distorted through the choking clouds. The quarter was slowly coming to life at night, when curious eyes and disapproving militia generally kept far away from the place.

The road climbed and twisted just as much as the others, leading through sinewy, small alleyways, up and down flight after flight of small, uneven stairs.

He almost fell more times than he cared to keep track of.

He was offered more substances than he’d ever cared to know existed.

“She’s young and fresh, young master, a steal really. She’ll make a man out of you.”

He did not know what ‘she’ was supposed to be, and hightailed it away from the stocky little man without a word, chased by curses on his manhood. All he wanted was to ask for directions to the church, nothing else.

The hours grew longer and the place grew louder, smellier and more crowded, people coming and going through the oily mist, masks covering their faces and goggles their eyes, hurrying to and fro.

No other part of the city could compare to the frenzy of activity that was the Alchemists’ Quarter, and no other part was as confusing. Emil had almost given up on his task, ready to return home and face the master’s wrath rather than even try to navigate deeper into the labyrinth and face the denizens. He’d been cussed out, threatened, offered strange services, drinks, organs even, and more girls than he would ever fantasize about.

It was all for naught, he felt. There could be no way to find one single person there.

Night soil splashed at his feet from somewhere far above. For the first time in many hours, he looked up, ready to offer a piece of his mind. His discontent died before he could utter a word. Outlined against a crescent, hazy moon, he saw the Cross of the Old Hope, cutting through the fumes. He had wandered right behind the church, close to the quarters of the brave nunnery that handled the wayward, yet dedicated flock. Handling highly explosive substances apparently mixed very well with religion and faith in a higher, protective power.

All that, of course, was quite lost on Emil. For the first time in years he made the sign of the Cross on his forehead and offered a short, silent prayer of thanks to whichever deity had decided to take some pity on him.

The next parts he would later not remember at all, as he ran down the alley, nearly threw himself off the cliff, almost broke his neck down the stairs and just barely noticed the ruined well before barreling right by it. Only one, small house stood before him, as if separated in a clearing in the dark, misshapen forest. No light shone through any window that he could see as he circled it, until a small, crooked door came into view.

It was not a polite knock that followed, as instructed by Master Barke. It couldn’t even be called a knock at all, but rather the desperate pounding on wood of someone that had finally found the tavern in the desert and could not open the door.

“Master Ludwig! Master Ludwig! I have urgent news to discuss!”

He hammered on the door for minutes on end, calling out, too stubborn to give in to the growing realization that the man may be out, lost among the throng of people going about their shady business. He’d have to be a shady man to be living out here. He’d have no reason to be staying in at this hour of the night if he were, indeed, shady.

“HOLD YOUR FUCKING HORSES!”

A voice exploded from inside, hoarse and raspy, of a man that was livid with anger after having been roused out of bed by such a late racket. Footsteps and banged doors and furniture could be heard from the higher levels of the house, and the sound of something heavy falling down a few stairs. A moment of silence and then another sound of furniture being barefoot kicked around, followed by a stream of cussing that would make a whore blush. It died down as it approached the door, transforming into incoherent mumbling.

The whole house seemed to shake as a heavy bolt got drawn back behind the door.

“WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU?”

A beet red face shot out from the dark behind the door, and one almost skeletal hand holding a pan with a few pieces of a candle, all burning. The man himself was not what Emil had expected of a wizard, aside from the floppy, pointy night cap he wore haphazardly on one ear.

For one thing, he was a full head taller than the lad, whom was already one of the tallest servants of his house. A crooked, sharp nose set roughly in the center of a gaunt, round face, almost stuck him in the eye as the man looked closer on his visitor, illuminating him to get a better look. Deep set eyes studied him from under bushy, snow white eyebrow furrowed in absolute anger. He had to bend over to exit the house fully; and he didn’t seem to care much that he wasn’t wearing anything other than a long nightgown, patched in so many places that the original fabric was impossible to distinguish.

Emil stuttered, eyes locked with the old man that seemed ready to strangle him, if not worse.

“Uh…um…Are you, perhaps, Ludwig? The wizard?”

“Of course I am, you bloody imbecile! If I weren’t, you’d be a showered in fucking acid if you woke up the wrong person. Now what is it you want?”

The boy felt that the question carried the implication of terrible things happening if the answer would not please the old man and, more than at any point in the night, he felt close to soiling himself in fear.

“Master Barke requests your aid in a matter of utmost urgency.”

“Fuck him. Anything else?”

Ludwig’s expression melted into uninterested apathy as he turned to close the door. The mention of Bartholomew Barke, one of the wealthiest merchants in Titan, did nothing but apparently bore the anger out of him.

“No, please, it’s terribly urgent. He’s told me you’ll be handsomely paid. I’ve searched for you all night through this green, stinking Hell. You must come! I’ll be whipped otherwise.”

Pleading, they say, will get you anywhere.

Sometimes.

This was one of those times, fortunately for Emil. It may have been the pleading itself, it may have been the promise for payment, or the way the boy had run out of hair halfway through whatever it was he was trying to say, but Ludwig stopped, bent over, half way through the door.

“Wait here and try to not wake anyone else up. If it’s another stupid ghost chase, I’m going to administer the whipping myself.”

There wasn’t much changed when he came back out. The droopy night cap had been exchanged for an equally droopy pointy hat, the nightgown for a tattered robe, the bloodshot expression of anger for the very same expression. A staff, usual accessory for most wizards applying their trade, was strangely missing.

“I don’t trust you to lead the way, boy, so you follow me and shut up. I’m amazed you even managed to get all the way out here without help. I’m pretty sure you can’t manage to get us back out though.”

Emil had to run to catch up and keep up with the stride of the tall wizard as he made off. The greenish smoky mist swallowed their forms as they headed towards the Centrum.

In the Alchemist Quarter…something exploded. Again. The night was not still.

The Necromancer

Author: Jonathan L. Howard

Genre: Fantasy, Humor

Publishing year: 2009

Johannes Cabal has never pretended to be a hero of any kind. There is, after all, little heroic about robbing graves, stealing occult volumes, and being on middling terms with demons.

His purpose, however, is noble. His researches are all directed to raising the dead. Not as monstrosities but as people, just as they were when they lived: physically, mentally, and spiritually. For such a prize, some sacrifices are necessary. One such sacrifice was his own soul, but he now sees that was a mistake – it’s not just that he needs it for his research to have validity, but now he realises he needs it to be himself.

Unfortunately, his soul now rests within the festering bureaucracy of Hell. Satan may be cruel and capricious but, most dangerously, he is bored. It is Cabal’s unhappy lot to provide him with amusement.

In short, a wager: in return for his own soul, Cabal must gather one hundred others. Placed in control of a diabolical carnival – created to tempt to contentiousness, to blasphemy, argumentation and murder, but one that may also win coconuts – and armed only with his intelligence, a very large handgun, and a total absence of whimsy, Cabal has one year.

I found myself picking up this novel by mere acciden. Left with nothing else to read while I was waiting for my car to be fixed, I “stole” this off a shelf. I can’t say I was expecting anything more than a few pages of entertainment before I would cast it aside for something better. As with other emergent authors, such as Scott Lynch (The lies of Locke Lamora) or Mark Hodder (The strange affair of Spring-heeled Jack), that proved far more difficult than I would’ve imagined, seeing as I was confronted with sharp wit, subtle dry humor, an unambiguously morally bankrupt protagonist and a sharp turn of the phrase.

Well, color me surprised…

Johannes Cabal, our necromancer, is as far removed from the general mold of novel heroes as you would be likely to find. His morals are all but absent, his wit is sharp and poignant, and the way he conducts himself makes loving him an almost instant act. This is not someone who would pull a rabbit out of a hat at the end and prove to be uncharacteristically just and heroic…no, kind reader, this is a character that would shoot on sight and never bother with the implications, as long as his purpose is served.
In a way, Johannes is incredibly refreshing as a maniacal character. His quest for getting his soul back only cements his nature, the author playing an apt game of smoke and mirrors in everything regarding his own character’s evolution and development.

And the plot offers ample opportunity for Cabal to shine.
Halfway through the book I found myself slightly tired, after an extended reading session. It wasn’t that the book was failing to keep my interest; it was just how it presented the sequence of events, almost ruthlessly going from one scene to another, without a moment to allow the character –and the reader- to take everything in. And then, Jonathan L. Howard proves he has writing chops: he devotes an entire chapter to a well deserved break, to fleshing out the world that Johannes inhabits and his own character, allowing us a much desired glimpse into the core of this very flawed, very enigmatic necromancer.
And such breaks appear again, mixing up the flow of the narrative and offering us a very good view into the heart of the Carnival, front row seats to the madness and, to my surprise, the methodology of the whole thing.

This is a tightly constructed, tightly held together book. The characters offer surprises –few, but they are there –, the story is held together marvelously and ties up nicely and the rules, and I stress this, the rules never go amiss. There is a lot of restraint shown here as things are worked into shapes, plot points are driven home and Cabal is at the center, cane in hand, scalpel ready at the moment to slice and dice – metaphorically speaking, of course -.

The Necromancer is a wonderful start to a series, offering enough to keep you entertained and amazed, just like the Carnival itself. But peer too deeply into the darkest recesses and you may catch a glimpse of the monsters that lurk there, of men and demons alike, ready to pounce on any fear you may secretly harbor. This is not a work for those that require a morally just character, nor is it one for the pure sadist of heart as there is little blood here and little horror for those seeking easy thrills, easily stomached gore and everything as childish as that.
The Necromancer is a book for those willing to accept a few flaws and embrace a dark protagonist in his quest not for redemption of his soul, but mere ownership.

There is room for growth here and there is talent to fuel said growth. Give it a try if you like your humor dry, you story tight and your characters intelligent.

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Baccano!

-MINI-


Tip productie: Serie anime – 13 episoade – 3 episoade speciale

An lansare: 2007

Gen: Mafia, Mister, Fantasy contemporan

Nota: 7.5/10


Am lipsit o vreme de pe blog se pare. Nu-i nimic, tot de rasul curcilor au ramas statisticile de trafic ale blogului asta, deci nu-i mare pierdere o mica absenta.

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Baccano! e intruchiparea unuia dintre acei pomi laudati catre care nu e o idee buna sa mergi cu vreun plan de pornire a unei afaceri de comert cu pere micsunele. E o serie anime bazata pe o serie (?) de nuvele usoare scrise catre Narita Ryougo, acelasi autor responsabil si pentru Durarara!! Povestea urmareste cateva fire narative ce au legatura cu familii mafiote, deturnari de trenuri, crime odioase, alchimie, nemuritori ce mananca oameni si multe altele, totul dus in spinare de un cast de vreo 20 (DOUA ZECI) de personaje.

Si e plictisitor de rupe.

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Acum, trebuie sa fac doua mentiuni:

  1. Fix inainte de a viziona seria asta am urmarit Space Pirate Captain Herlock: Outside Legend – The endless Odyssey, o serie anime SF hibrida, care mi-a facut foarte mare placere. Are pirati spatiali, un protagonist absurd de miserupist in fata pericolului, demoni cosmici, calatorii printre dimensiuni, zombie spatiali si tot asa. E un fel de vis umed pentru fanii SF ca mine, crescuti pe Franke Herbert, fratii Strugatski, John Brunner si altii de genul. Orice as fi vizionat dupa ar fi avut de suferit in a-mi capta atentia, mai ales la foc rapid.
  2. Nu am vizionat inca episoadele speciale si nici nu sutn deosebit de interesat sa o fac.

Si asa stiti si voi din ce circumstante vin acum aceste observatii. Se poate ca Baccano! sa-mi fi placut mai mult daca l-as fi vazut intr-un moment mai oportun.

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Seria de fata sufera de acelasi sindrom ca si Garden of Sinners, si anume ca foloseste o tehnica de povestire fata de care eu observ ca incep sa am alergie. Toata scenele sunt puse intr-o ordine absolut aleatorie, cu o multitudine de salturi intre perioade de timp si tranzitii de la un an la altul chiar si in mijlocul unei propozitii. Totul e, bineinteles, facut doar de amorul artei, intr-un experiment narativ care nu mi-a parut in niciun moment ca reuseste sa-si gaseasca cu adevarat stabilitatea.

Adaug aici si faptul ca ca vedem aceleasi evenimente din perspectiva mai multor personaje si deja totul incepe sa para ca o incercare obositoare de a trage o pisica de coada pana invata saraca sa cante opereta. Evenimente destul de scurte se prelungesc ca timp de vizionare ad nauseam, pana in punctul in care realizam spre final ca nu s-a petrecut mai nimic important pe durata a 13 episoade iar povestea mai mare in mijlocul careia pasim nu s-a urnit cam deloc.

Status quo-ul vazut la inceput ramane aproximativ neatins pana la finalul intregii chestii, lucru care ma face sa-mi pun intrebari de ce am vizionat 13 episoade doar pentru a ajunge inapoi de unde am plecat.

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Lucrurile nu sunt, bineinteles, ajutate nici de castul acela imens de personaje care, cu vreo doua exceptii notabile, sunt complet imposibil de placut sau suportat pe ecran. Cel putin pentru scenele lui Ladd sau Jacuzzi simteam ca am nevoie de un pahar de tarie ca sa le suport pana la final.

Exceptia notabila e cuplul de personaje Isac si Miria. Amandoi sunt de o excentricitate debordanta si reusesc sa insufleteasca orice scena in care ajung sa apara. Par rataciti prin anime-ul asta de printr-o alta serie – pe care as prefera sa o vizionez sincer – si mi-au fost simpatici aici, facandu-ma sa apreciez mai mult scurta lor aparitie din Durarara!!.

Mai e si Claire ca personaj simpatic, desi surprinzator de generic, chiar si spre final.

Restul nu merita mentiune.

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Cel mai frustrant lucru in legatura cu anime-ul asta e ca nu am nimic chiar rau de zis. Toate problemele mele cu seria se pot reduce foarte usor la gusturi personale si preferinte, caci in sine anime-ul e de-a dreptul inofensiv.

Nu exista gauri imense in poveste, nu exista cine stie ce disjunctii logice ce sa zgaraie, personajele nu-si ies din propriile tertipuri, animatia e functionala, muzica e decenta, violenta exista pana intr-un punct care sa fie doar credibil.

Cam orice poti ierta in momentul in care realizezi ca absurditatea e intentionata…mai putin faptul ca e atat de plictisitoare.

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Si asta e tot ce am de zis despre Baccano!, anime-ul cu nemuritori plictisitori.

Ca sa fiu sincer, spre final chiar a inceput sa-mi capteze interesul. Odata ce toata labareala s-a incheiat si povestea a inceput sa lege din pleiada de fire libere, treaba chiar a devenit suportabila si am gasit ca ma distram cu personajele. Daca nu ar fi fost atat de lungit totul, daca nu ar fi trebuit sa suport sa vad aceleasi chestii de o suta de ori – un lucru ce nu e IN SINE rau, ci doar aici nu a functionat – si daca povestea ar fi avut ceva de zis pana la urma, randurile astea ar fi avut probabil alt ton.

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Asta e, asta a fost. Chiar imi pare rau ca nu mi-a placut mai mult, oricat de ridicol ar suna.

Insa, cum nici Durarara!! nu mi-a prea mers la sufletele, in mare din aceleasi motive, cred ca-i sigur sa zic ca adaptarile anime ale cartilor astea nu sunt pentru mine.

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Nu uitati ca puteti da follow, like, share sau chiar comenta direct aici pe blog; sau va puteti alatura pe FaceBook grupului Anime Paradigm daca v-a facut placere aceasta recenzie sau aveti nelamuriri / observatii / intrebari / injuraturi la adresa mea.

Toate cele bune pana la urmatorul articol.

Flip Flappers

– MINI –


Tip productie: Serie anime  – 13 episoade

An lansare: 2016

Gen: Fantasy, Magical Girls

Nota: 9/10


Cobori in fuga prin vizuina iepurelui alb, treci de Alice si lumea ei fermecata, si iesi undeva prin desertul din Mad Max, unde esti vanat brutal de fete anime intr-o realitate repetitiva in stilul Groundhog Day, spre a fi infrante printr-o cadere in psihicul adanc al colegei de scoala, fara nevoia unui vis ca-n Inception…si cam asa ceva e Flip Fappers in momentele sale de glorie.

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Acum, dupa bucatica de mai sus, chiar va mai intereseaza care e povestea?

Doar de dragul formatului, e cam asa: doua fete se intalnesc – una energica, una cuminte, Pretty Cure ar trebui sa va vina-n minte – si ajung sa calatoreasca prin bucatele de universuri magice in cautarea unor bijuterii – MacGuffin standard pentru asa ceva – ce ar urma sa implineasca dorinte odata ce sunt stranse suficiente. In opozitie apare o organizatie secreta, mult mai bine echipata, ce au propriile planuri pentru respectivele bijuterii, ajutati de proprii vanatori – tot adolescentini, evident.

Cam asta ne e premiza, si cel mai putin important element al intregului anime.

Undeva prin mix mai apar transformari magice, inamici transformati in prieteni, iepuri antropomorfici, doctori misteriosi si multe, multe, altele.

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Flip Flappers reuseste sa creeze un univers magic cu adevarat impresionant, debordant ca si creativitate  vizuala, fara a se bloca intr-un singur stil si fara a deveni absurd sau obositor prin schimbarile vizuale. Povestea in sine rasare tarziu, considerand ca nu e foarte multa in sine, si lasa loc seriei sa respire si sa construiasca, sa aduca la viata relatie intre cele doua personaje intr-un mod natural si credibil, considerand si varsta lor.

Cum foarte rar am sansa sa vad, seria asta nu ne forteaza sa suportam expozitie fara sens. Tot ceea ce trebuie sa stim vine prin intermediul actiunii, prin scene care elucideaza misterul central, fara a ne bate cu el peste ochi. E un stil foarte organic de a povesti si de a lasa, totusi, suficient material spre interpretarea celui ce priveste. Conceptul de „info dump” e aproape absent aici, cu cateva dintre episoade fiind adevarate bijuterii in materie de povestire vizuala.

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Asta ar fi, bineinteles, complet inutil daca povestea nu ar fi usor de urmarit sau daca s-ar dovedi totul a fi plictisitor.

Din fericire, nu e cazul.

Flip Flappers, chiar si in momentele sale mai tacute si introspective, are energie cat sa nu stie ce sa faca cu ea. In momentele in care trage in rafala maxima, e de-a dreptul un carusel.

Intr-un anume fel, mi-a amintit mult de Abenobashi Magical Shopping Arcade si de FLCL, ambele productii Gainax din zilele de glorie ale studioului. De fapt, totul despre seria asta mi-a insuflat un aer clasic, cumva reminiscient al anime-urilor de prin anii ’90 sau inceputul anilor 2000, dar asta e mai greu de explicat in cuvinte.

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In caz ca nu e foarte clar de prin cele cateva imagini puse pe aici – si care mi-a fost oricum foarte greu sa le decid – atunci o zic explicit: animatia e un deliciu. Miscarea personajelor, stilul grafic, culorile, totul creaza un anime cu o foarte clara identitate a sa. Chiar daca stilul variaza – ca la urma urmei, asta e rostul plimbarii printre dimensiuni – calitatea animatiei ramane constanta de la primul episod si pana la ultimul, lucru care nu-l pot zice despre multe anime-uri din sezonul de toamna 2016.

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Cert e doar ca mi-a facut foarte mare placere seria asta si nu-mi doresc, sub nicio forma, un al doilea sezon pentru ea. E o poveste de sine statatoare, cu un inceput, mijloc si sfarsit clar, care e competent realizata si pusa-n scena. Nu are nevoie de absolut nimic mai mult si e printre anime-urile mele preferate ce au iesit in 2016, chiar daca pare sa fi fost trecut cu privirea de multi fani.

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O serie facuta cu pasiune si cu placere, cu radacini clasice, si fara o urma de CGI care sa sara-n evidenta. Venita din partea unei echipe cu, pe semne, putina experienta in materie de anime-uri, de la un studio de animatie ce pare a fi la inceput de drum, se poate simti aici pasiunea pentru ceea ce faceau…iar rezultatul e spectaculos.

Daca cautati vreodata o bijuterie de anime pentru care nimeni nu avea vreo asteptare speciala, aruncati un ochi peste Flip Flappers. E posibil sa va surprinda placut.

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Nu uitati ca puteti da follow, like, share sau chiar comenta direct aici pe blog; sau va puteti alatura pe FaceBook grupului Anime Paradigm daca v-a facut placere aceasta recenzie sau aveti nelamuriri / observatii / intrebari / injuraturi la adresa mea.

Toate cele bune pana la urmatorul articol.

Okusama ga Seitokaichou!

– MINI –


Tip productie: Serie anime  – 24 episoade – 2 sezoane

An lansare: 2015 – 2016

Gen: Comedie, Ecchi

Nota: 6.5/10


Acest mini articol se aplica pentru ambele sezoane ale seriei asteia. In primul rand deoarece sunt mult prea lenes pentru a scrie doua bucati diferite, si in al doilea rand deoarece nu exista absolut nicio diferenta intre cele doua sezoane care sa merite orice fel de tratament individual.

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My wife is the student council president! are un titlu imbecil si o inima buna, formata din 24 de episoade de cate 8 minute lungime fiecare.

Poveste e simpla: cel mai cast adolescent din lume se trezeste  „casatorit” cu o colega de liceu – chestii de-ale parintilor – si ajung sa locuiasca impreuna. Ea e sefa consiliului elevilor din liceu dar, in ciuda acestui fapt, ei nu se pot da calumea-n vileag ca fiind impreuna – ca ajung sa fie impreuna, duh! – din cauza unei alte tipe cu un par adanc infipt in cur care aparent uraste orice forma de intimitate intre un baiat si o fata.

Ghiciti voi restul mai departe, ca nu-i chiar stiinta abstracta.

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Am mai vizionat prin 2014 o serie mai veche, similara, numita Iketeru Futari, care mi-a placut mult. Amandoua seriile au cam aceasi filozofie a existentei: se ia genul ecchi, se scot absolut toate rahaturile inutile din el, se fierbe pana se atinge forma de sirop concentrat si se serveste intins pe corpul fraged al unei virgine de liceu…uh…presupunand ca mai exista asa ceva.

Seria nu are poveste, nu are o tentativa de poveste, nu are dezvoltare de personaje, nu are personaje complexe sau macar interesante, si inoata in momente fara numar de hentai soft core care niciodata nu reuseste sa treaca mai departe – caci umor pe seama libidoului si caci ar implode universul daca doua personaje anime ar ajunge totusi sa si-o traga in vreuna din chestiile astea.

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Dar e amuzanta cu draci  – literalmente – de vizionat.

N-am avut nicio asteptare, n-am avut nicio pretentie, am stiut de la prima scena la ce sa ma astept si mi s-a servit exact asta.

Lipsa de ambitie?

Cu siguranta.

Lipsa de umor?

Nu. Chiar nu.

Prefer de departe o asa serie care nu-mi incearca rabdarea pentru toate cretinismele uzuale ale genului in locul a orice altceva mai complicat sau mai pretentios.

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Nu am ce analiza aici.

Intereseaza pe cineva implicatiile profunde ale unei glume cu un supozitor?

Ma indoiesc. Stiu ca mai sunt si ciudati pe acolo, dar nu cred ca am asa ceva printre cei ce-mi citesc blogul.

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Seria asta e doar ceea ce pare a fi si e distractiva de vizionat asa cum e, in ambele sezoane.

Daca nu va musca umorul inca de la primul episod, nici nu trebuie sa mergeti mai departe. Aici sunt doar fetite goale, glume cu supozitoare, bile albastre si tensiune sexuala atat de incordata de incepe sa dea note muzicale.

Personajele in sine sunt simpatice ca si clisee amuzante si mi-ar face placere inca un sezon de asa ceva…sau macar un hentai care sa rezolve naibii odata tot stresul sexual din sezoanele deja existente.

Ce i-ar mai trebui?

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Nu uitati ca puteti da follow, like, share sau chiar comenta direct aici pe blog; sau va puteti alatura pe FaceBook grupului Anime Paradigm daca v-a facut placere aceasta recenzie sau aveti nelamuriri / observatii / intrebari / injuraturi la adresa mea.

Toate cele bune pana la urmatorul articol.

Hana to Alice: Satsujin Jiken

MINI


Tip productie: Film anime

An lansare: 2015

Gen: Josei, Mister

Nota: 7.5/10


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The case of Hana and Alice e un film numai bun de vizionat pe la 2 dimineata cand nu reusesti sa gasesti ceva mai bun sau mai interesant de consumat. E, in acelasi timp, si o foarte ciudata experienta anime ce nu reuseste decat foarte greu sa-si gaseasca ritmul si careia ii voi uita, din pacate, multe dintre detalii.

Servind ca prequel unui film live action de acum vreo 12 ani, filmul actual urmeaza povestea unei anume Alice, pe numele ei complet Arisugawa Tetsuka, ce se transfera intr-o scoala noua ca urmare a divortului parintilor ei. Aici nu e tratata prea bine de noii ei colegi, banca in care se aseaza fiind aparent a unui baiat ce a disparut – presupus ucis – fara urma cu mai bine de un an inainte. Ajungand sa „investigheze” evenimentul, ea ajunge sa se imprieteneasca cu Arai Hana si impreuna sa descopera circumstantele misterioasei dispartii.

Si nimic nu conduce spre ceva fantastic de interesant, asa ca nu va ganditi c-am sa va zic despre cine stie ce bijuterie nesperata.

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Prima si prima chestie care te loveste-n retina cu filmul asta e ca se foloseste de animatie rotoscopica. Acum, nu stiu daca asta e termenul corect in limba romana pentru „rotoscoping animation”, dar presupun ca veti intelege despre ce-i vorba.

Pentru cine nu a mai vizionat niciodata asa ceva – exemple notabile fiind anime-urile Mind Games, Aku no Hana si Kuuchu Buranko – trebuie doar mentionat ca e o tehnica foarte veche si mai putin utilizata ce presupune desenarea peste cadre filmate real. Cateodata rezultatele sunt impresionante, cateodata mai putin, si cam depinde de multe ori de viziunea creatoare a regizorului si de competenta echipei.

Cine a vizionat vreodata desenele animate Superman de prin 1940 vor sti cam cat de realista poate fi miscarea animata obtinuta prin asa metode.

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Din pacate, anime-ul de fata nu e printre cele mai impresionante tehnic exemple ale tehnicii acesteia, dar isi are momentele. De cele mai multe ori animatia e simplista iar personajele foarte putin detaliate fac nota disconcordanta cu detaliul impresionant al cadrelor de fundal – fotografii reale peste care se deseneaza – si rezultatul zgaraie ochiul de cele mai multe ori. Adaugand peste treaba asta si uzul ciudat al tehnicii de slow motion, rezulta un film ce de multe ori te zgaltaie din imersiune prin simplul fapt ca nu-si gaseste un stil vizual care sa functioneze constant.

DAR, ca sa fim cinstiti pana la capat, animatia, desi simplista, e fluida si se simte destul de naturala. Momentele in care cinematografia atinge notele vizuale corecte sunt superbe si dau productiei o textura foarte misto.

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O a doua chestie care ar putea indeparta lumea e faptul ca prima jumatate de ora e…degeaba. Povestea arunca pe ecran o gramada de detalii – lectii de balet, o tipa posedata si obsedata religios, concepte de fantome, ideea unui ucigas in serie, o intalnire cu tatal natural pentru actele de divort, cariera de scriitoare a mamei sale – dar cam nimic din prima parte a filmului nu ajunge sa aiba vreo relevanta mai tarziu. Filmul bate pasul pe loc jumatate de ora si pare pur si simplu confuz si pierdut, fara a avea o directie sau structura narativa clara.

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Ambele probleme de mai sus se mai rezolva, oarecum, odata ce povestea trece in actul al doilea unde Alice o intalneste pe Hana, si de unde toata productia incepe sa-si gaseasca propria voce si identitate.

Aceasta din urma se manifesta printr-o extrem de buna chimie intre personaje, cu cateva dintre cele mai placute interactiuni pe care le-am vazut in anime-uri de ceva vreme incoace. As zice chiar ca e printre cele mai realiste viziuni asupra unor personaje feminine adolescentine, la un loc cu – si cat de misogin o sa sune asta – concluziile pripite la care ajung, pornind de la cele mai absurde premize sau indemnuri.

Povestea in sine e buna de aruncat si serveste cel mult ca un cadru pentru a lasa doua fete de liceu sa interactioneze si sa se imprieteneasca, in timp ce rezolva un mister nascut din imaginatia colectiva a comunitatii liceale ce se agata de orice zvon iesit din comun.

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Per total, eu recomand filmul.

E o experienta interesanta, cu o personalitate proprie si un stil aparte. Personajele sunt printre cele mai umane pe care le-am vizionat prin anime-urile din ultima vreme si mi-a facut sincer placere sa vad ce naiba vor sa faca pana la coada. E amuzant, induiosator pe alocuri, ciudat cateodata si nu functioneaza aproape niciodata exact cu si-ar fi dorit regizorul.

Dar asta nu-i ia mult din calitatile pe care le are oricum. Si odata ce ati terminat cu filmele mari si faimoase anime – ca mine – e si asta bun de tinut minte pentru o vizionare.

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Nu uitati ca puteti da follow, like, share sau chiar comenta direct aici pe blog; sau va puteti alatura pe FaceBook grupului Anime Paradigm daca v-a facut placere aceasta recenzie sau aveti nelamuriri / observatii / intrebari / injuraturi la adresa mea.

Toate cele bune pana la urmatorul articol.

Sezon Toamna 2016 – Partea a II-a

Da, a devenit o serie chestia asta, care va incepe sa aiba din ce in ce mai putine anime-uri de la articol la articol, dar probabil va creste ce am de zis. Pe moment doresc doar sa completez lista inceputa tura trecuta cu restul de serii pe care le-am mai incercat. Sunt aproape sigur ca mi-am consumat toata rabdarea disponibila pentru a viziona noi productii, asa ca altele nu ma astept sa mai fie.

Dintre toate anime-urile despre care am scris pana acum, cel mai probabil voi ajunge sa vizionez foarte putine pana la final, urmand sa revin asupra celorlalte candva in viitor. Poate cand vor prelua porcii controlul planetei. Poate un pic mai curand, cand vor fi maimutele la carma. Vedem.

Acestea fiind zise, ia sa vedem ce-am mai reusit sa pescuim din mocirla.

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Continue reading Sezon Toamna 2016 – Partea a II-a

Sezon Toamna 2016 – Partea I

In seara asta va aduc un articol din nou creata categorie:

„Am avut si idei mai proaste de atat…dar nu cu mult”

Scurt pe doi, ideea e asa: eu nu vizionez, de felul meu, anime-uri in timp ce ele sunt difuzate. Imi displace sa astept cate o saptamana dupa cate un episod, pe cat imi displace si zgomotul constant al fanilor si al celor ce se considera, cu prea putin simt ironic, „critici anime”.

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Dar cum stiu ca nu se citeste prea mult despre anime-uri vechi sau obscure, iata ca musc si eu din glontul asta pentru a mai putea intretine ceva conversatii mai curente. Ceea ce urmeaza e o prima privire aruncata asupra anime-urilor ce si-au inceput difuzarea saptamana asta, cu cateva imagini ca exemple, si o prima impresie asupra acestui sezon de toamna.

Evident nu sunt aici toate anime-urile lansate in ultimele sapte zile. Nu am atat timp liber disponibil, si nici nu ma tin nervii sa vizionez chiar atat de multe chestii pentru care sa am rabdare mai tarziu.  Daca omit cateva care v-ar fi interesant…ei, Google va e prieten.

Asta, sau le voi discuta saptamana viitoare, de vreme ce acest tip de postare as dori sa devina o obisnuinta de weekend…daca prinde, evident.

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Asadar, hai sa incepem. Ordinea e aleatorie – in principal dupa cum au fost asezate fisierele downloadate in folderul dedicat sezonului asta.

Continue reading Sezon Toamna 2016 – Partea I