Kay’s Korner: School-Live! Review

Hello, my name is Kayvious Campbell and I love video games and anime! After consulting with my good friend Dennis, I decided to write material to add to his awesome blog’s arsenal! I am a recent college graduate and currently just passing the time as I attempt to apply to graduate school. I hope to shed some light on some mainstream anime as well as some underappreciated anime. Feel free to leave comments and feedback to assist me in this new process or if you just want to generate conversation! Let’s get the show on the road!

School-Live girls

School-Live! is a relatively new anime that has a special place in my heart. I decided to make this my first review because it was a show that I just randomly scrolled onto it while on my CrunchyRoll account this past summer. From the first episode, I was hooked and it has made its way onto my list of all-time favorite anime.

The show revolves the main character, Yuki Takeya, who is a third year high school girl who is in love with going to school. So much that Yuki and a couple of her friends have created a club titled “The School Living Club” in which the members virtually live at school and enjoy each other’s passions and school.

The president of the club is Yuuri Wakasa. She is the leader of the group and the brains of the club who assists the club supervisor.

That club supervisor is Megumi Sakura, who is the one of the girls’ teachers. She is a lighthearted, caring person who is adjusting to her new profession.

The other three members are Kurumi Ebisuzawa, the athlete of the group, Miki Naoki, the club’s newest member who respects Yuki as her mentor or senpai, and the lovable club mascot and dog Taroumaru.

The School Living Club

Clockwise: Kurumi (Purple Hair), Yuuri, Yuki, Miki, Taroumaru

The manga series began serialization with the July 2012 issue of Houbunsha’ Manga Time Kirara Forward Magazine. The manga was written by Nitroplus Co. Ltd., a Japanese visual novel computer software company. The company’s other claim to fame or major associations is with the Fate/Zero series and Assassination Classroom series. They tend to focus on material with darker themes such as reanimation of the dead and murder (Spoiler).

The anime adaptation aired between July and September 2015. It was created by Lerche Studio, and thank goodness they decided to fund it. After the first episode was broadcasted, it sparked a dramatic increase in the manga sales; a ten-fold increase. The first episode has been viewed on Nico Nico Douga over 2.5 million times as of October 2015.

The manga steadily continue to thrive, however the sales for DVD are rather low, so the likelihood for a second season is slim. If you find yourself loving the series after you complete the anime adaptation, I definitely recommend that you continue with the manga series since it seems like it will be around for a while.

The School Living Club

The show is comprised of 12 episodes, 22 minutes in length. It began streaming stateside this past summer via CrunchyRoll and was constantly praised as one of the top anime of Summer 2015. At first glance, the show’s presentation conveys itself as a happy-cute-girls-doing-cute-things anime.

Yuki Takeya, as previously stated, is the central protagonist. The show constantly focuses on her relationships with the characters and her perspective of her life. She is airheaded and simpleminded, but her personality and actions help complement the group’s seriousness. All was going well until one unfortunate day and Yuki’s life and relationship with her friends would be changed forever.

As the show progresses and develops, it does a complete 180 and constructs serious reoccurring themes such as betrayal, despair, and even death evident by the end of episode one.  The phrase “Everything is not as is seems” rings true with this anime. The show contains several major plot twists that keep the audience captivated. The show leaves the audience in awe and scrambling to understand what has transpired or what may happen next. This thriller is filled with multiple elements and components that elevates its quality in my eyes, and I believe it deserves more attention throughout the anime community.

The art style is modern looking, and the show was done well overall. The one thing I noticed is that the main characters are very detailed while all the other characters throughout the show aren’t as detailed or look incomplete. I feel the artists and directors did this to put the focus on the girls rather than the background people.

The opening is very enjoyable as well! It is constantly changing and adapting to the follow alongside any major events. And the lighthearted J-Pop song will be forever etched into my brain. I will admit it was a tad bit annoying at first, but then it started to grow on me. Now, whenever I hear the opening, I can’t help but bounce along to the catchy tune.

Need more reason to watch this show? The show deserves attention because it is still an underappreciated and relatively unknown anime. The anime is subtitled and not available dubbed with English voices. I mention this because I have noticed a lot of people new to anime dislike having to read subtitles. But I firmly think this show is relatively easy to follow and the plot will keep you on your toes and wanting more.

~Kayvious

Video: Visual storytelling in Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

After writing three in-depth posts about the visual storytelling in World 1, World 2, and World 3 of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, I realized something: the blog format isn’t well suited for what I’m trying to explain. So I rectified that oversight by creating a more complete analysis, this time of the entire game, in video form!

This video was a lot of work, but I think it turned out well! Thanks to everybody who’s been following my posts thus far. I had a ton of fun making this video, so I’ve started a new YouTube channel for this blog: Dpad on YouTube. Please check out my video and let me know what you think!

I’ve been watching Let’s Play videos for several years now, and after being an admirer from afar, I decided to finally tackle this new method of analysis. In this post, I want to talk about what went into the creation of this video. I’m sure there are plenty of resources out there for Let’s Players. Here’s my perspective on what I went through in the creation of this first video.

Research

First, I needed to play the game again so that I knew what I was talking about! I’ve already played DKCTF extensively for the write-up of the previous posts, but I went through the game for the umpteenth like, making notes on each level I played. I did this without capturing any footage; the focus at this stage was just to get information, and to figure out what footage I needed to capture.

I also played bits and pieces of the previous Donkey Kong Country games, as I knew I wanted to make comparisons to Tropical Freeze.

Gathering the assets

Next, I needed the assets: that is, the audio and visuals needed to make the video happen. I captured footage with the Hauppauge HD PVR Rocket. There are probably more sophisticated game recorders out there, but this one seemed intuitive to use and was fairly inexpensive at $140. That said, before I started gathering my assets, I played around with this recorder for a couple hours, learning how it connected to the system, troubleshooting errors that came up, and experimenting with short videos to see how big the file sizes were.

Once all that was out of the way, I played through each level, starting and stopping the recorder for each level so that I could better organize the data. Some levels I played all the way through, especially those levels where I knew I would be taking about them extensively. Other levels I knew I wouldn’t devote much time to analyzing them, so I played until I died, sometimes only 30 seconds.

One great feature of many games is the ability to adjust the volume of the music and sound effects independently. In 25 years of playing video games, I’ve never found a use for these options. But for this project, they came in handy! I turned the music all the way down, recording only sound effects. I knew that when I put the video together, I would have music playing on a separate track from the gameplay footage.

Then I needed to capture music. I readjusted the settings—turning the music all the way up and the sound all the way down. Luckily, DKCTF has many unlockables in the game, like soundtracks. I recorded 2-3 soundtracks from each world, usually for 3-4 minutes so that I had plenty of music to work with. The game doesn’t let you unlock all the soundtracks, so in a few cases I went to specific levels to record the music I needed.

Finally, I gathered some footage from the previous games in the series: DKC, DKC2, DKC3, and DKC Returns. I had the SNES games on the Virtual console, so I played them right from my Wii U. I also had DKC Returns on disc. No emulators were used in the creation of this video!

Recording the scripts

With all assets gathered, next it was time to write the scripts. This was a challenge for me: any follower of my blog knows that I write lengthy posts! The difference between reading and speaking, though, is that somebody can read something much faster than speaking the same words out loud.

The final script was over 6,000 words long! I tried to limit my discussion of each world to around 600-700 words, plus there was a little extra to introduce and conclude the video.

The scripts written, the next step was to record the voiceover. I purchased the Snowball iCE USB microphone by Blue from Best Buy. The mic is pretty good quality for $50. I figured, before I buy a ton of expensive equipment that I might not even use, it’s best to start with fairly inexpensive equipment and improve it over time should I really get into making this videos.

I recorded the scripts in chunks, only 2-3 sentences at a time. If I tried speaking longer than that, I usually stumbled over my words! I recorded the audio in Audacity, a free, open-source audio editor. After recording each segment, I combined the segments into one track, spacing my sentences apart as naturally as I could.

I’m not entirely satisfied with the voice-over work in this video. If I made the video again, I would spend more time editing my scripts for word choices (I tend to repeat certain words and phrases a few times, which makes the voice-over sound redundant in parts) and I would’ve rerecorded some of the sections so that the cadence was more natural.

Preparing the video

With all this prep work complete, it was time to put the video together! I edited the video with Adobe Premiere. I don’t own the program myself, but I’m a professor in a Mass Communication department, so I have access to this program on the school’s computers. I’ve used video editing software before, mostly Sony Vegas, but Adobe Premiere was considerably more sophisticated than Vegas. Fortunately, Google is a good friend! Typing in “How do I do XXX in Adobe Premiere” taught me a lot!

With the project open, I started by laying down my voice-over tracks. Then, I created text overlays for all the level names in the game. I relistened to my voice-overs, had whenever I started discussing a new level or world, I dropped a text overlay at the appropriate place.

Then I laid down the music. Each song would play long enough to cover the analysis of 4-5 levels of a given world. I think there are 15 tracks total in this video. I couldn’t have the music competing with my voice-overs, so I adjusted the audio so that the voice-overs were the loudest, and the music was quieter.

Finally, I was ready to sequence the game footage. I started at the beginning of the video and worked through to the end. I imported the videos, adjusted the volume so that the sound effects were quieter than the music, then cut the video into pieces, depending on what I discussed in the voice-overs.

I didn’t use all the footage from each level, so if I had unused footage, I put it toward the back of the timeline, as I knew I would need some general filler footage for the intro and conclusion to the video. By the time I got to editing the conclusion, I had a couple dozen clips to choose from. Almost no video repeats itself on this project!

Of course, there were several snafus I had to overcome in the creation of this project. Sometimes I forgot to record a tiny section of gameplay, or my voice-over just wasn’t good enough so I rerecorded it. Sometimes the video wasn’t displaying properly in the editor, so I had to fix it. And exporting the video took a few tries until I was satisfied with the final result.

Overall, I estimate that it took about 40 hours to produce this 37 minute video! Hopefully in the future, now that I’ve been through the process once, I can produce videos faster!

Since I am so pleased with how this first video turned out, for my next project I’m going to analyze the visual storytelling in the first Donkey Kong Country game: how did the inaugural entry to the series tell its story?

Stay turned for more videos, and more blog posts!

Game on,
~Dennis