You're Under Arrest vol. 10

Volume 10 covers episodes 37-40: "The Yamanote Express Incident," "That Man, Shouji Toukairin," "Ah! The Springtime of Beach Volleyball Man's Youth," and "Three Couples' Dangerous Date."

The Yamanote Express Incident:
A Yoriko/Aoi episode. The Chief has promised to only send two of his officers on a mission to catch two wallet snatching thieves who work the rail system. It's obvious he has Natsumi and Miyuki in mind when he makes this vow, but Inspector Arizuka has requested that Yoriko and Aoi take on the job. The Chief agrees, but sends Miyuki and Natsumi along to keep an eye on them in case things get out of hand. And like any good YUA episode, things do get out of hand when the thieves end up stealing guns by accident and hijack the train.

That Man, Shouji Toukairin:
Toukairin is a recent new addition to YUA, appearing in the previous volume as an emergency rescue officer who helps Natsumi rescue the Chief from the top of Tokyo Tower during a bad wind storm. Now he's a transfer member of Bokuto Station, there to train the traffic cops in emergency rescue tactics. After being beaten in an arm wrestling contest by Toukairin, Natsumi sets about to prove herself to him and the station by amping up the stakes for the rescue training.

Ah! The Springtime of Beach Volleyball Man's Youth:
Strike Man and the gang in a beach adventure. The episode is mostly fan service, for the guys and the girls (if they can tolerate a speedo sporting Strike Nan and a trunks wearing Nakajima). Yoriko has concocted a plan to win herself a trip to Hawaii. The beach they are all going to (Miyuki, Nakajima, Aoi, Yoriko and Natsumi) is having a beach volleyball competition, with a trip for 5 to Hawaii for the winners. She pits Natsumi and Miyuki against the unlikely combination of Nakajima and Strike Man "disguised" as Beach Volleyball Man. This way, she thinks, the two teams will make it to the final match together, and no matter who wins, she'll get to go on her trip. No policing in this episode, just the bathing suit clad police officers (including Aoi sporting a bikini, but don't worry, she wears a wrap) goofing off and having fun.

Three Couples' Dangerous Date:
Another off duty episode. Nakajima finally works up the courage to ask Miyuki on another date (helped by the always plotting Yoriko of course) to a local amusement park. Natsumi, Aoi, Yoriko, and the Chief tag along to spy on them. It doesn't take long before their cover is blown, however, and they all end up running around the park together. The Chief finds out about a "Monster Hunt" attraction, which is a fairly realistic paint ball game (the creators must really like paint ball since this is the second episode that includes a game) and they all decide to enter together. The guys who run the game are obsessed with finding the perfect couple with true love for each other, insisting on putting couples under pressure to see how they react. The gang eventually breaks up into the Chief and Natsumi, Miyuki and Nakajima, and Aoi and Yoriko (who I think make a very cute, if bizarre, couple), and set off to reach the goal. But as the gang picks off the monsters one by one, their leader decides it's time to stop playing fair.


Lost Odyssey

Lost Odyssey, developed by Mistwalker, produced by Microsoft, for the Xbox 360.

Absolutely amazing game. If you like Final Fantasy, you should play this game. It plays just like a Final Fantasy game, its story is like a Final Fantasy story, and indeed is produced by Hironobu Sakaguchi, the creator of Final Fantasy. And to top it off, Nobuo Uematsu created another of his amazing scores for the game.

The story centers (initially; the the other characters come into the forefront later on) on Kaim, a 1,000 year old immortal working as a mercenary. He has lost all his memories of the past 1,000 years, except for the haunting dream of a young girl jumping off a cliff into the ocean below. The game begins with an all out war between Uhra and Kent, with Kaim working on the side of Uhra. Disaster strikes the battle field as a giant meteor appears over the battle field and rains down lava onto the unsuspecting armies below, annihilating everyone. Kaim, as an immortal, is the lone survivor, and is sent to the Uhran council to give a report of the battle. The council suspects the meteor is the result of a leak from Grand Staff, a large magic engine being constructed by the sorcerer Gongora, and they send Kaim to investigate. Along with Kaim they send another immortal named Seth, who has also lost her memories; Gongora secretly sends along a man of his own - a black mage named Jansen.

As the story unfolds, the party gains 2 more immortals (including the Queen of Numara), and 4 more mortals (including the king of Uhra), eventually giving you a 9 member party, 5 of which can be used in combat simultaneously. Strangely, all of the immortals have lost their memories at some point, including memories of each other. 1,000 years ago they were all sent into this world for some purpose, which they have also forgotten, but by coming into this world, they became immortal. Throughout the game, Kaim slowly recovers his memories in a series of "dreams" that trigger after specific events, or when Kaim goes to certain locations in the game (Seth and Ming also have a dream or two related to the main story). Most of these dreams are unrelated to the story at hand, and are simply glimpses into Kaim's life. Unfortunately they are unanimated text stories set to music and simple backgrounds, with the occasional sound effect. Fortunately, they're extremely well written, interesting, and often very moving stories.

The immortals in the game are just that, and they can't completely die. This means that in combat, if an immortal goes down, in 2 rounds or so, they'll automatically revive. On top of that, immortals have the wonderful ability to learn every skill in the game, either from the mortal characters, or from accessories. They have a maximum of 30 skill slots to use (eventually, after you use slot seeds or items to expand the number), and really, that's more than enough to get by. Immortals learn skills by skill linking to mortal skills, or equipping accessories, and then gaining the skill points (through combat) required to learn the skill. Mortal characters have a set skill progression based on their character type (for example, Jansen will learn all levels of black magic, and abilities like double cast), and a limited amount (usually 1) of slots to equip an accessory.

Along with accessory slots is the ring slot, which allows all the characters to equip a single combat ring. These allow for special combat capabilities such as elemental weapon damage, increased critical chances, HP/MP absorption, stealing, etc. In combat, when a character with a ring makes a physical attack, you must hold the right trigger on the controller as a ring appears on the screen, and release it at the right moment to match up with a smaller ring to acquire a "good" or "perfect" hit. A "good" hit will allow for partial success of the ability equipped, while a "perfect" almost always guarantees the ability, and often increases damage as well. A "bad" hit allows for no special effects.

The game has all the elements you'd expect from a Japanese RPG. Scantily clad ladies, slightly annoying side kicks, what I like to call a Final Fantasy style attack menu (much like all brands of tissue are often referred to as Kleenex), bonus secret boss fights, bonus dungeons, ultimate weapons (which are actually remarkably easy to obtain), an arena type area (called the Backyard), air ships (well, boats, but one of them does fly, and dives under water), and a decent amount of plot twists and emotional moments. A 25-30 minute ending scene tops it all off, rather nicely wrapping up the characters' stories, and even giving us a nice little celebration event to round things off.

Good story, interesting characters, great soundtrack, amazing visuals, fantastic game. Definitely a must play for RPG fans, at the very least. I sunk about 100 hours into it myself. Beware the "new game plus" save, however. Normally this means you get all your items, levels, skills, and...well everything except story things (like the characters you'll gain through the story). Not this time; you'll start at level 50, but you won't have any of your possessions. So you'll still have to go through and gather everything again, it'll just go smoother. By the way, if you're nearing the end of the game and need some quick levels (and you're around level 40 or 50), stop by the bonus dungeon called The Temple of Enlightenment and run around there for a while. You'll gain a level virtually every combat you enter (until you hit level 70 or 80), and your skill points will go up quickly as well. If you want a challenge at the end of the game though, keep your levels closer to 60 or so, not 80.

Oh, side note - the game comes on 4 discs (packaged rather carelessly on a single spindle, with the 4th disc in a paper sleeve). While you can get a good amount of play out of the game, this is mostly because there are 4-5 different language tracks to listen to the game in.


Still Doll

Awesome music video from new Japanese artist Kanon Wakeshima. She's adorable and talented. She's been playing cello since she was 3 (she's 19 now), started singing when she was 16, and joined up with Sony Music. Her debut song, Still Doll, is the ending theme for the anime Vampire Knight. The ending animation for the anime is fantastic and fits perfectly with the song, creating a nice eerie feel.

The Mighty Monarch

Season 3 of The Venture Brothers premiered tonight. This is one of my favorite shows of all time. The premier episode was a little more sweet and sentimental than hilarious or action packed. It focused entirely on the relationship of The Monarch and Dr. Girlfriend. We learned the origin of The Monarch, that not only Dr. Girlfriend had ties with Phantom Limb, and how the two first hooked up and started working together. Lots of great back story. Even a little T.S. Venture - Monarch's been arching him since college, although we still don't know the specific reason why he hates Venture so much.

The episode is set up as a trial or interrogation, as the Guild attempts to trace back Phantom Limb's traitorous actions. Monarch and Dr. Girlfriend are split apart to tell their sides of the story, presumably to prove Phantom Limb's guilt, but it quickly spirals into a trial against Monarch. It seems Monarch never technically registered with the Guild, but moonlighted as an arch villain while henching for various other villains. Fortunately Dr. Girlfriend is there to defend him.

The Venture family is virtually nonexistent in this episode, and the intro animation for the episode features Monarch and Dr. Girlfriend prominently (as the intro to season 2 feature Dr. Venture and his brother Jonas Venture Jr.). There are plenty of loose ends from the previous season to make this another great run. Kim (Triana's friend), who desires to be a super villain; Myra (Venture's former bodyguard) is still running around; Rocket Impossible's true father; the fate of Underbheit (last seen trying to crash at Monarch's cocoon); The Order of the Triad; Phantom Limb (obviously); etc. Should be another fantastic season.