Coming of Age


Naota's life is confined to going to school and living with his father and grandfather.

The usually boring life in Mabase is rudely interrupted by the arrival of Haruko Haruhara, who bursts on the scene by running Naota over with her Vespa scooter and hitting him on the head with a blue vintage Rickenbacker 4001 left-handed electric bass guitar. Later, Naota is shocked to find Haruko working in his house as a live-in maid.

Haruko's search for the alien being, Atomsk, puts her at odds with Medical Meccanica, the monolithic industrial corporation. At the same time, Naota is being watched by Commander Amarao. The Commander believes Haruko is in love with Atomsk and that Medical Meccanica is out to conquer the galaxy.

The combination of circumstances get Naota involved in a three-way battle between Haruko, Amarao and Medical Meccanica.

It seems like it should be impossible for something only 6 episodes of FLCL long to be jam packed with so much meaning, characterization, and great animation yet Kazuya Tsurumaki pulls it off so well.

I’ve written about the coming of age story at the heart of the show in the past and I still find new details I hadn’t noticed before every time I rewatch it. And even if you don’t want to analyze and dig for the deeper meaning of the show it can be enjoyed on a purely surface level.

The animation on display from the Gainax/Production IG duo is truly something to behold.


The first half of the story takes place primarily at Hikarizaka Private High School, a fictional school located in Japan. Outside of the school, frequented locations include the bakery run by Nagisa's parents, and the dormitory where Youhei Sunohara lives.

Throughout the story, glimpses into an Illusionary World are shown. This world is devoid of all life except for a young girl, though she later makes a body out of junk pieces through which the player can interact with her. The remaining half of the story takes place in the same city, after the conclusion of the first half.

While the town's name was never directly mentioned, one can infer that the town's name is Hikarizaka based on the many companies and establishments that share this name.

So how does a simple romance show beat out the epic adventure that is Gurren Lagann? Well for me Clannad does it by being so relatable and consistently focused on its core message: family.

That’s not to say Clannad is perfect because there is an arc or two I don’t really care for. But the core story of Nagisa and Tomoya does develop nicely, eventually leading to After Story where the show really sets itself apart and shows the two in a relationship after high school, moving on into adulthood.

There are many lines and moments that struck a chord with my own life and by pushing Tomoya and the audience through a roller coaster of joy and tragedy, it’s able to achieve an emotional catharsis that nothing else can quite compare with.


Ryuji Takasu is frustrated at trying to look his best as he enters his second year of high school. Despite his gentle personality, his eyes give him the appearance of an intimidating delinquent. He is happy to be classmates with his best friend Yusaku Kitamura, as well as the girl he has a crush on, Minori Kushieda. However, he unexpectedly runs into "the school's most dangerous animal of the highest risk level"—Taiga Aisaka—who just happens to be Minori's best friend.

Taiga has a negative attitude towards others and has a habit of snapping violently at people. She takes an instant dislike to Ryuji, and it turns out she is living in an apartment facing Ryuji's house. When Ryuji discovers that Taiga has a crush on Yusaku, and Taiga finds out about Ryuji's affections towards Minori, they make an arrangement to help set each other up with their crushes.

Over the course of the series, Ryuji and Taiga try to set up romantic situations to help each other get to know their friends, but many of the situations backfire. Their classmates observe that they are spending a lot of time with each other, leading to rumors that they might be a couple.

Although Ryuji and Taiga try to dispel the rumors, they find that they do enjoy each other's company, with Taiga visiting Ryuji's house to share meals, and Ryuji checking up on Taiga to get her to school, and cleaning for her. They meet Yusaku's childhood friend Ami Kawashima, a popular teen model who transfers into their school. She appears to be friendly and is a self-proclaimed ditz, but beneath her facade is a rather mean and spoiled brat, and she quickly finds herself at odds with Taiga. In spite of this, Taiga tries to put up with her antics as Yusaku wants them to all get along, and Ami begins to grow fond of Ryuji.

The series follows the lives of the five, as seen primarily through the eyes of Ryuji, with the characters growing and developing through their interactions with one another.

Toradora stands as one of the best anime romcoms because it avoids much of the melodrama of its contemporaries and approaches its characters as actual high schoolers working through their tangled feelings.

Taiga and Ryuuji spend much of the show as good friends legitimately helping each other through tough times. The romantic side of their relationship is slow to develop but it feels satisfying due to all the time they spend together.

Not to mention that the comedy is on point too, particularly with Minori.


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…


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


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.


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.


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.