Anime

3 Little Known Sci-Fi Treasures

Legend of the Galactic Heroes

The story is staged in the distant future within our own Milky Way Galaxy, approximately in the 35th century. Unlike many science fiction stories, there are no alien civilizations. A portion of the galaxy is filled with terraformed worlds inhabited by interstellar traveling human beings. For 150 years two mighty space powers have intermittently warred with each other: the Galactic Empire and the Free Planets Alliance.

Within the Galactic Empire, based on 19th century Prussia, an ambitious military genius, Reinhard von Müsel, is rising to power. He is driven by the desire to free his sister Annerose, who was taken by the Kaiser as a concubine. Later, he wants not only to end the corrupt Goldenbaum dynasty but also to defeat the Free Planets Alliance and to unify the whole galaxy under his rule.

There is a third neutral power nominally attached to the Galactic Empire called the Phezzan Dominion, a planet-state (city-state on a galactic scale) which trades with both warring powers. There is also a Terraism cult, which claims that humans should go back to Earth, gaining popularity throughout the galaxy.

As a huge Star Wars fan I’m always up for a good space opera but I’d never seen one so sprawling and politically focused as LoGH.

Yang Wenli is the perfect mix of relatable laziness with brilliance in both history and tactics.

Yet Reinhard is also likeable and as a viewer one tends to pick their favorite characters on both sides. The huge space battles and maneuvers are entertaining as hell but the real hook for me was the examination of a just dictatorship fighting against a corrupt democracy.

And despite every opportunity he’s given, every stupid command by his superiors, Yang refuses to reject his belief in the democratic system.

It’s a show that’s mature, entertaining, and thought provoking all the way through.

Space Brothers

In the summer of 2006, Mutta Nanba and his younger brother, Hibito, witness what they believe to be a UFO, which flies off towards the moon. Hibito decides he will go onto the moon whilst Mutta decides he will aim for Mars. Nineteen years later, in the year 2025, and Hibito has become a fully fledged JAXA astronaut assigned to go on a mission towards the moon.

Mutta, on the other hand, has not been so successful in achieving his dreams. As Mutta eventually recalls his past ambitions, he receives a letter stating he has been accepted to join a JAXA training program for new astronauts. The series follows Mutta as he seeks to become an astronaut and achieve his longtime dream just like his brother did.

I’ve always loved NASA and space travel so this show was right down my alley from the beginning.

But what really elevates it is the huge cast of likeable adult characters and the slow but steady progression of the brothers’ dreams. It doesn’t shy away from how difficult it is to become an astronaut and watching Mutta persevere through it all is immensely inspirational.

Space☆Dandy

The story revolves around Dandy, a human alien-hunter. His job is to seek out new aliens never seen before, and receives a reward whenever he finds a new species. Dandy's mission is to find those new species faster than anyone else as he travels the galaxy and he travels with the bucket-of-bolts robot QT and the dimwit alien Myau he picked up. Along the way , Dandy comes into contact with new planets and their inhabitants.

Space Dandy is not Shinichiro Watanabe’s best work but I would argue it’s his most creative.

With so many amazing creators play around in the show’s crazy world Watanabe is able to give us a series bursting at the seams with contrasting tones, wildly varied animation, and fun characters. Not every episode is a winner but the duds are few and far between.

Plus the sakuga nerd in me is in love with all the established master animators as well as rising newcomers that got to express themselves.

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Thoughts on Designing Cards

I actually have to say that by stepping back you can reassess the different aspects of a projects.

For me the save the date cards were, the project. But as it stood if I had only went ahead and made those and said that my contribution was done I would have been only doing half as good as I could. That is why I have been so happy with the project, it has allowed me to do something that I have always wanted to do and I will be helping my BGF with something that means a lot to her. Which in turn means a lot to me. It has given us a chance to reconnect on a deeper level.

We have known one another for so many years. How many? I think we have been friends for close to 14 years now and I hope that we are blessed with so many more.

As we grew into the people we are we were always there for one another when things got tough.

I can recall so many nights we stayed up late listing to one another cry. Helping each other with courses that we would have otherwise failed, or just plain having a good time. And yet, over the years they have been getting rarer.

She was the maid of honor for my wedding and I will be a bridesmaid in her big day.

wonderful example of how simple and powerful good design can be.

Beyond Save the Dates

Once we both realized that the chance was too good to pass up, I think that is when we really both realized that it was important to go ahead and design a full set of wedding invitations. That as I have said required us to step back and look at the whole thing from a different perspective. She had originally wanted to have a local printer handle the invitations for the wedding but once she came back with the quote it was clear that it was marked up way too much. And not only that, had they not been out of their price range, they would have still passed on the offer.

During this time I had been looking for options for save the date cards. At least, options that would allow us to get them printed and I came across a couple of websites that offered them.

One even allowed you to upload your own images for the actual print. This made the whole thing more appealing. And so once we got the quote from the printer here in town we realized that having them printed elsewhere was a viable option.

One of the good things about this option was that we would be able to have them match. The printer had a couple of different styles, twenty maybe, that he would do. He didn't offer custom jobs, at least not regularly (he would discuss price though) and so they would have been stuck with a generic set.

Like this, the invitations will be personal. They don't need to be limited by the selection. We can design them in whatever manner we want, and we can have them printed professionally at a lower cost. In general this is a win-win situation for the couple since they will be purchasing a house next summer and they don't want to spend a fortune on the wedding. But it will only be the best of both worlds once we finalize the layouts for the different cards and invitations.

That will be the hardest part of the whole thing.

Making them is actually fun. And we are going to have them printed once we have a layout that we are happy with.

Once we have the prints back from the printer we are going to finalize them with additional elements that will make them look a lot more personal.

So how can you do all this?

I think that there are really only three ways to design cards and invitations that actually look good. I mean, anyone can just do a quick printout and call it finished. But for most of us, we would be unhappy to send those out.

I have been working on a set for a friend and when it comes to bigger celebrations like weddings and such, even the smaller ones take a lot of work.

Thankfully I have a lot of experience in InDesign and PhotoShop (Alternatively if money is an issue you can try Gimp or Inkscape) so I don't need to "learn" anything on that end. Though I really never had experience with things like that so I did look to see what I would need to include.

At first I was just going to focus on the save the date. We were going to print those out at the local print shop and have them cut to size. Well, we still are. But now the project has grown to being the full thing. And that has proven both fun and challenging. And so we're in the process of finalizing some of the details and I realized, that most people don't have the options we do.

I sat down and wrote out a list of things that might work though…

InDesign/PhotoShop

Not everybody has this kind of software at their disposal, nor do they have the experience to use it. I have been really lucky to have both and think that if it had not been for them I wouldn't have been as willing to help. But the design process has been a blast. From here, you could have them printed.

That is what we are planning on doing. If, however, you have printmaking skills (I don't but you can learn about the different ones on Pace Prints), you could silkscreen or whatever.

This would probably be the nicest option.

Hand Illustrated

This is probably only really an option if you are good at this sort of stuff. I am not. It takes a lot of work to illustrate and hand-letter your invitations.

I would really only go this route if you are planning on creating a single design that you'll have printed. Otherwise you will spend too much time working on them.

Hand Crafted

Handwritten

I see this as another aspect all together. You can have them crafted with either of the other methods and then put them together. It really doesn't make a difference which option you choose, just as long as you have a theme picked out for your invitations or cards.

If you have the skill to craft and the desire to do it you can translate this to really beautiful wedding invitations. For example my old teacher he loved woodworking and he made printing blocks. Then every year he would print cards for his students and their families. Thinks that basically anything that you can use to create a non-traditional invitation.

This also doesn't have to be based your own work. I think a lot of what this means is that you get the basic designs together. I personally can make them, but that doesn't mean that we will do everything ourselves. In a lot of ways what we're doing for the wedding invitations could be done by ordering custom pieces.

Let me explain.

As you have just read we are in the process of making the designs. And I have been having a lot of fun designing them, as well as, getting the feedback that everybody often dreads. I like to get feedback though since it gives me the motivation to make changes, to improve and to make people happy. And since I am designing the wedding invitations for my best friend and her future husband I want to make them as perfect as I can. I understand that perfect is impossible, but the more we work on the layout the more confident I am that they will be as happy tomorrow with the designs as they are today.

It doesn't need to be so involved though, you can do the same thing by piecing it together. To do that, you need to spend the time looking for the various cards and invitations that you can use. I found it really helpful, knowing just what they wanted. I had had the opportunity to take part in some of the planning and when I saw the theme that they were going to have for the wedding I immediately had a number of ideas that would work wonderfully for (at the time, just the save the date cards) but as the task grew I realized that I only had one piece of the puzzle and needed to take a step back and look at it as a whole.

This is also a part of the process, and it is useful when you aren't coming up with ideas or you feel that things aren't going in the right direction.

I often find a break is needed then. And I might make a cup of tea to give myself a chance to relax.

When I come back to it things are often clearly in focus again.

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I’m InDesign Mode

I have been working as a designer for a couple of years now. Nothing too big. But I am part of the office that designs the company's training material and other liturature. Basically stuff for when we have seminars and things like that. I usually handle the layouts and hand them off to the next team that fills in my blanks. It is fun and I get to use programs like PhotoShop and Illustrator.

If you don't know InDesign don't feel bad. It's industry standard layout software so it's full of features and if you've used Photoshop or Illustrator before then you'll be familiar with the interface which makes moving between all three so much easier..

I think one it's best features is its ability to link to an image, and have your InDesign document update when you update the image. We use this a lot at work. We'll have a designer working on a photo on one end and I will be working on the layout and when it changes I can give them the right feedback.

Now I am in the process of designing some cards that a friend of mine will be using for their wedding. Okay, I am not doing this on company time. I have been working on them when I get home in the evening. I actually don't think it feels like work though, since this is a lot more personal and fun.

The feedback has been filled with laughter and we've had a chance to just have fun.

Since the package has a lot of tools for things like this I can get pretty everything done that needs to be done. For example I had her give me a spreadsheet since it easy to use mail merge from a .cvs file so you can design the layout of 1 card then hit a button and it'll generate your whole set.

I had first agree to just handle the save the date cards for her but we've gone ahead and I will be designing the rest of the cards as well.

Manga

A Good Villain

If I had to pick just one*, it'd have to be Freiza. Not a terribly complex character, but implemented so well in the narrative and plays his role perfectly.

First is the unorthodox design – in his first form, he's small and not at all intimidating, which belies his true nature.

While that changes with his subsequent forms which more literally portray the threat he poses, his final form is noticeably effeminate and is eerie rather than traditionally scary.

The way his reputation was built up through the story and other character's "testimonies" was perfect too, with former insurmountable villain and general cocky bastard Vegeta being absolutely terrified of the guy.

It's the same technique that imprinted Boba Fett onto the minds of so many filmgoers.

The most sinsiter is the way he slowly reveals his power, giving the protagonists – and the reader – glimmers of hope, only to snatch it away is a masterclass in building tension. He's also a great foil in that he seeks power to Dominate others, and is all ego, as opposed to agony, although obsessed with martial arts, enjoys self-improvement and doesn't hold himself above other beings just because he's more powerful.

This is a trait common to most great villains in shounen action series, and Freiza best embodies that.

Last but not least is how he was integrated into the personal histories of the main characters – Vegeta was transformed from a full-on villain to a sympathetic antihero through their relationship, and most importantly, the normally carefree Goku was forced to confront his nature and past as a member of the race Freiza massacred.

*Cringe as you might but I thought Cell was a great villain in Dragon Ball Z is my all time fav though. Mostly because of the way he takes the tropes and makes something out of them.

I think what amuses me most is that he takes those lame gimmicks, the ones that are usually employeed by the heroes and turns them it back at them. He uses them all, and thoroughly the way shuts people down, letting them try anything and just making fun of it.

He is also used well mechanically, allowing Gohan his awesome powerup but then still proving an intensely dramatic showdown.

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De-cluttering My Home

Oh, so much clutter!

I have this habit of putting stuff away and then never looking at it again until my drawers are about to burst. I think, oh, this greeting card has to be saved. It is sentimental. And then, well, it is placed into the collection with the rest.

The reason I have decided to star to de-clutter, is well, I have a couple of projects going and I realize just how much clutter I actually have right now.

This has brought me to a couple of ideas.

If it's important to you keep it. So, say it is a card from my mother when I turned three, the I am keeping it. If my employer gives me one when I turned thirty, ditch it.

For some of them I am going to be taking digital photos of sentimental items and keeping that while ditching the physical card. I'm that I will not be looking at the digital photos any more than I would look at the originals, they are a much more compact way of storing stuff. And in the off chance I want to read them I can. I think handwriting is interesting and personal and something that I like to keep. A friend of mine, she is super creative. Actually she is an artist and can make her own paper. What she does is shred the cards, paper, what not and makes paper from them to use in her projects.

Manga

Samurai

I enjoyed Rurouni Kenshin, but I hated the art style. On the other hand, Blade of the Immortal is perfect and I can't wait to see the live action film.

Blade is what made me respect Hiroaki Samura who has since become one of my favorite mangaka. The artwork is brilliant and gripping.

Still, doe not fit into the genre of samurai manga so much as a battle manga with a samurai skin. It is noted particularly for its anachronism and historical-fantasy elements.

Vagabond is much more a samurai manga in that it deals with realistic settings, ideas, and themes appropriate to samurai as a category. In terms of story development, nothing really comes close to Vagabond and Blade of the Immortal.

Those two are really the critical darlings of the genre.

Blade does deal with things like the end of the samurai era and serving appropriate masters, but does not touch as deeply on important samurai aspects like Zen, self-identity, and the multifaceted nature of honor.

Satsuma Samurai