Summer Paradise

My journey through Japan began from the north, and I made my way down as far as Hiroshima. The first stop in Hokkaido was a great introduction to Japan that was contrary to most preconceptions as this was Hokkaido in summer, but just before families from the rest of Japan would arrive due to the summer vacation period. For the most part, this was a road trip with several other friends and we rented a seven-seater car for a week.

Arriving in the evening at Sapporo airport, it was relatively late by the time that we picked up our vehicle and began driving to our first stop. Since this was the case, our first stop was an hours’ drive away – Lake Shikotsu. Lake Shikotsu is generally a quiet and less-travelled location as it is small and does not have much in the way of attractions aside from a view of the lake. One of the owners of the hostel welcomed us and gave us a brief introduction to the area – it is government protected, and thus little in the way of development can actually occur. It was a rather small and quiet town (nothing taller than two storeys at all!), and at eight in the evening, it was already dead quiet. All the shops had already closed, but the owner was nice enough to re-open one of his other businesses – a small café where he made us each a plate of Japanese curry. That said, it truly felt quite peaceful and detached, especially as our accommodation had traditional Japanese style rooms and a natural hot spring.

We made our way over to Lake Toya the next morning, where one of the lookout points offered an amazing panoramic view of the entire lake.

This photo does not do it justice.

There are plenty of Japanese mushrooms for sale in this area if that’s what interests you. Driving in Japan for the first time, there were various oddities we noticed – strange downward pointing arrows, and the fact that no one seemed to follow the absurdly low speed limits. Upon googling, we found out that the arrows were actually for the winter season when snow covers the roads so that drivers can tell where the road boundaries are. As for the speed limit, it seems as though residents drive up to 30 km/h above the posted speed limits, and speed cameras usually only care about an excess of around 30 km/h above the limit. It’s a strange system indeed, but it honestly does not make sense to travel at 40 km/h on a major countryside road that is non-residential.

The roads often have scenic lakeside views, or colourful floral views when away from the water.

After taking a look around the Lake Toya area, we headed for our accommodation in Noboribetsu where we would also see the nearby Hell Valley (Jigokudani), famed for its volcanic landscape that can appear to be like a scene from Hell. Something we only discovered from the posters in our accommodation was that there would be a local festival for the ‘demons’ held in Jigokudani that evening.

We also went around to various areas in Furano, Biei, and Otaru where there were many, many lavender and other flower fields, farms, and wineries. Melons and cherries are in season during summer, and melons are extremely popular (and expensive) here. It was very picturesque, and also incredible to see how much work goes into these flower fields as many of them are snow fields during winter, which means that the flowers must be replanted for every summer season. By the way, most things tend to bloom in summer, and peak season is when Japanese families visit in late July and August.

For the last part of our Hokkaido tour, we spent some time in Sapporo city. We were able to get some shopping done, and take a look around at the city’s attractions. We did an AirBnB stay at an apartment in the city which really made us feel at home in this city, though parking can become an issue.

Gotta try butter corn ramen while in Sapporo

This being my first time in Japan, it feels as though I’ve seen it through a different lens. There’s far more to it than novels or anime can show, and these photos are but one tiny aspect.

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A Brief Review – Spring 2017 Anime

I don’t normally do things like this, but I guess I might just once in a while to procrastinate. Anyway, I guess I’m somewhat disappointed at this season overall as many of the things that I watched were generic and cliched. That’s not to say that they weren’t entertaining, it’s just that they did nothing more than that. Potential spoilers up ahead!

Attack on Titan / Shingeki no Kyojin Season 2

The long-awaited sequel finally arrived after three and a half years for most people…though I personally binged through all of season one and two at once. I have to say that while I thought the first season was incredible, and it really drew me into the world, the second season was a slight letdown. Perhaps because much of the initial shock value of the series was now the norm, it had less of an effect on me. This season continues on with a steady stream of action, and splices in a bit of romance and character building. However, where it falls short is exactly that, with all that action and plot aside, the characters feel rather shallow, and are driven only by simple emotions or desires. Jean aside, none of the other characters rece mive much attention. Though, that’s fine withe. Attack on Titan’s strong point is its action, soundtrack, and plot. There are certainly more plot twists to keep everyone addicted, even if they do appear to be slightly more predictable now, but the gradual revelation of various details is what keeps this going strong.

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Rokudenashi Majutsu Koushi to Akashic Records

The synopsis and the initial three episodes were actually quite interesting, especially Glenn’s character. But as the series progressed and we saw more of Glenn’s background and his interactions with the supporting cast, it became clear that this was yet another one of those ‘magic school’ anime. It certainly entertains and gave me a good occasional laugh, but in the end, it feels much the same as many others that I’ve seen. Neither the plot, characters or soundtrack truly stand out from the crowd.

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Eromanga-sensei

Oh boy, where do I begin? This comes from the same author as OreImo, which was good in its own right, but Eromanga-sensei was plain in comparison. The entire premise revolved around a LN author MC and his imouto illustrator and their circle of friends/colleagues. Though humorous at times (in part to the references it makes), it felt as though there was no progression. Almost all of the female cast seems to be in love with the MC, and the entire season simply painted their everyday life. It is an over-the-top exaggeration of a LN author’s life which may appeal to some, but it was probably one of the least interesting of this season for me, despite its comedic value.

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Re:Creators

This one is actually a 2-cour, so it will continue into the next season, but I will provide my opinion so far. This has turned out to be one of my favourites for the season. It is a completely original anime with a rather unique premise and execution. The anime portrays a world much the same as ours – we idolise and devote our time to fictional characters and worlds, to these so-called stories. Re:Creators mirrors this, and presents its world as one where these fictional characters are brought into the world of their creators. The way creators interact with their own creations is certainly interesting, and the realistic depth of Souta is, quite frankly, incredible. It is only later on that we are fully exposed to Souta’s inner psyche, but the buildup until that point has been phenomenal. Definitely excited to see how the rest of this pans out next season.

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Boruto: Naruto Next Generations

Naruto has been something that I grew up with, alongside others such as Dragon Ball Z and Yu-Gi-Oh. It was enjoyable to see much of the cast from Naruto return in their mature roles, but I’m still waiting to see where this goes. While the next generation has taken the spotlight, the formula appears to be the same – Boruto essentially seeks acknowledgement from his peers and his father, much the same way that Naruto did. It feels almost like Naruto all over again, but with a new cast – so I do hope that this series has something to show for itself other than acting as a new take on its predecessor.

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Dungeon ni Deai wo Motomeru no wa Machigatteiru Darou ka Gaiden: Sword Oratoria

I’m still waiting on the last episode of this, but I have to admit that it’s not as enjoyable when Bell isn’t the MC. Lefiya and Aiz are both fairly shallow – Lefiya seems like a bit of a simpleton, while Aiz remains largely expressionless, not allowing us a glimpse into what goes on in her mind. As a standalone, it doesn’t really offer much, but it may be a necessary step for future progression.

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Zero kara Hajimeru Mahou no Sho

This one started off with an interesting plot, but soon became quite generic. I don’t really have much else to say aside from the fact that its is quite similar to many others, and is overall just ‘average’.

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Busou Shoujo Machiavellianism

I actually started out liking this one because the MC seemed to be a badass, but taking a step back to evaluate it revealed that it was filled with cliches, and was just another one of those battle school harems. Much of the plot is nonsensical, and though the MC’s fights with each of the Five Swords are something to look forward to, the plot never amounts to anything meaningful.

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Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata ♭

Whether this is the end of the anime or not, it was well done. While each of the characters fit into their own ‘trope’ and stereotype, they manage to break free from time to time, and the fourth wall is occasionally breached to deliver some great humour. The underlying plot of the VN that they develop is really just a vehicle for the drama that plays out, it is able to draw out a lot of detail in each of the characters, and that has made it worthwhile.

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Shuumatsu Nani Shitemasu ka? Isogashii desu ka? Sukutte Moratte Ii desu ka?

This one didn’t turn out quite as I expected it to, but that was for the better. It started off as what appeared to be yet another cliched setting, but that just helped to serve as a backdrop for story that captured the essence of a relationship and something deeper than the monster-fighting. The true worth of this anime is only brought out in the last episode, and I have to admit that all aspects of this blended together very nicely. The plot and the characters in this story aren’t nearly as important as the underlying message that is conveyed.

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Clockwork Planet

Hmm, this was an oddball. It had a unique setting, and humour stemmed mostly from Naoto’s obsession with clockwork dolls, but the plot wasn’t too bad either, and the characters were likeable enough. I think what this lacked was a single defining element, or something that could really make it stand out even more. It was enjoyable mostly for the entertainment value that it brought, but it could have been executed better in my opinion.

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Sakurada Reset

This one is another 2-cour, so this will be my thoughts on it so far. Along with Re:Creators, this was another highlight of the season for me. It’s a bit of a silent achiever – on the surface, it appears to be a rather ordinary tale of students in a particular town, but the way in which it presents the characters and their abilities is where this shines. It has nothing flashy, but the unpredictability and intelligence of the plot is what makes this interesting. I have to admit that almost all of the cast lacks depth and defining traits in their personality, and they appear to be somewhat emotionless overall, though it doesn’t seem like a major negative at this point.

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Sin: Nanatsu no Taizai

Coming from the same studio that does High School DxD, I was hoping that this would be good, but it falls quite short of that. It is still airing, but from beginning to end, it is nothing more than a vehicle for fan-service. I never really complain about fan-service, but I dislike it when that’s all there is. This is one such case – though there appears to be an overarching plot, most episodes follow a formula in which Lucifer and co. compete against one of the other Sins in some manner that results in various fan-service scenes. Everything is rather shallow, and at times I think that this might have been better either as a full-on Hentai, or with more narrative focus.

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Berserk

As an anime-only viewer, I’m actually glad that Berserk is getting more episodes, even if the animation isn’t great. Nonetheless, I’ve gotten used to it, and this season has been quite enjoyable. It’s always nice to see more of Guts’ badass scenes and his journey with a growing number of companions. It’s kept interesting by the plot and the underlying themes, though this season felt somewhat more disjointed. I’d love to see this continue, especially since I don’t have plans yet to start the manga.

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Tsugumomo

This actually turned out to be pretty lewd. It reminds me of a few other similar anime in the same vein, and that’s what I’ll remember it as. It isn’t spectacular in any aspect, and the pace was a tad too slow for my liking. The only thing that really stood out were the ecchi scenes and jokes, but it is otherwise ordinary.

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Sekai no Yami Zukan

I don’t really know why I watched this, but it’s probably because each episode was only four minutes or so. I honestly don’t know what the point of the show was as it didn’t do anything particularly well. The animation style was primitive, and the stories simplistic. I could only laugh at times because of how bad this whole thing was executed.

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Quanzhi Gaoshou

This is probably the first Chinese anime that I’ve ever seen, and it turned out surprisingly good. The animation was top-notch, although quite a few of the male cast looked too similar and their names weren’t particularly memorable. The show builds up a few expectations that it can’t live up to though. At the beginning, it seemed as though we would watch a man’s journey to becoming the best again in the eSports world, but many of the episodes simply seemed to show that he was already the best, and people were just salty or jealous of what he had. The pace was slow in terms of actual progression, but it did well in portraying its world and ideals.

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To sum up, I’d say that Re:Creators takes the top spot this season, and almost everything else was somewhat mediocre. Feel free to disagree, or share your thoughts on this. And if it feels as though I have nothing but negativity, well, picking out flaws is often easier than finding things to praise.

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La Peregrinación Sagrada

Yes, it’s happening. The great holy pilgrimage through which one is changed forevermore. I’m going to Japan!!

A few updates about what’s going on at the moment:
– I’m swamped with assignment deadlines as the end of semester is nigh
– Exams for me start in around 2 weeks
– I jet off to Japan 2 days after my exams are over

As such, I have no intention of starting the translation of High School DxD Volume 23, even if I do get source material. I won’t be starting further translation of Shinmai Maou no Keiyakusha either, I don’t have enough time to make decent progress of Chapter 4. I’ve already started a bit of Seikoku no Ryuu Kishi Volume 7 Chapter 2, and since it isn’t too long, it will probably be done before I head off.

I’ll be spending just over three weeks in Japan, broken down as approximately one week in Hokkaido, one week in Tokyo, and the other week in Osaka and Kyoto (Kansai region), as well as Hiroshima. Unfortunately, it seems like a bit of a low season for conventions and festivals, though the Gion Matsuri does seem to go on for all of July. I’ve got most of my trip planned out generally, but haven’t gotten down to a full day-by-day itinerary yet, so if you’ve got any suggestions for me, let me know in the comments below. Shoutout to Samat and /u/Venom_is_an_ace for giving me some great ideas! 

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Late Reminder for the Late Updaters

Things have cooled down quite a bit from the recent outbreak of ransomware that you might have heard about. In summary, WannaCry (aka. WCry, WannaCrypt, etc.) is a virus that uses a security exploit in Windows operating systems that allows it to encrypt the precious research material’ files on your computer, permanently removing your access from them until you pay up.

It’s been a real shitstorm for myself dealing with client concerns and checking WSUS (software used by businesses to monitor and roll out Windows updates) at every site. So here’s a reminder to keep your OS up to date, especially if you use Windows. You’ll want to make sure that you’ve got everything from Microsoft Security Bulletin MS17-017 that applies to you, which should appear in Windows Update as the “March 2017 Security Monthly Quality Rollup for #####”, and while you’re at it, make sure you’ve got the April and May updates as well. Remember to stay up to date – given the scale of this incident and its influence, I would strongly suggest that you install security updates as soon as they are made available. If you run Windows 10, the almighty Microsoft forces these updates on you like a dictator, hooray!

For those out there who may argue that patches break stability and cause issues, I’d seriously weigh up the arguments for each side. When shit hits the fan, it’s a lot easier to tell clients (or whomever) that they’re protected, rather than have to deal with the issue under pressure. And…backups should be there so that you can roll back if necessary. It’s also great to do some research on each patch as well, just to make sure that it doesn’t pose any major issues.

While I’m on this topic, I think it’s important to stress the need for backups as well. While a copy of vital data on a USB stick is all well and good, it’s not much good if it isn’t regularly updated. It’s better to use backup software such as ShadowProtect or Ashampoo Backup to keep daily (or even more frequent depending on your needs) incremental backups on an external hard drive, network location, or in the cloud. This way, even if a computer is compromised or decides to retire itself, the data is somewhere else. Best practice would also involve keeping a regular copy of those backups in some off-site, offline location, though that’s probably going too far for home use.

Another tip would be to use a standard user account, and only use an administrator account for elevations (Run as administrator) when necessary. This can stop potentially damaging software from causing overly serious damage to the OS.

Finally, set your anti-virus or firewall alerts to ‘verbose’ and ‘interactive’ if it doesn’t bother you too much. It’s helpful to know what goes on in your filesystem, and what changes each application makes to it and the registry. ESET does a great job of this, and their software can be set to show and prompt for every registry, network or filesystem access.

There’s much more you can do to keep yourself safe from the modern threats of the landscape, and the power to implement them is always in your hands. For those with managed IT systems, you can always do your own checks and liaise with IT to make sure you’re protected as best as is possible. Of course, security is sometimes an illusion given that the NSA or bloody communists might have access to everything, and if you do feel that there’s something fishy going on, the best protection is to keep a tin-foil hat on your head at all times, and to lock everything you own inside a Faraday cage.

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Latest Updates [2017]

Last update(s):
High School DxD: V23 Life.2 (Part 3 of 4) (15/10)
Shinmai Maou no Keiyakusha: V7 Chapter 4 (Part 9 of 13) (26/9)
Seikoku no Ryuu Kishi V7: Chapter 2 (15/6)

No spoilers please, I only read as far as I translate.

Night mode can be accessed on the right sidebar. It has been updated and now uses HTML5 local storage to stay persistent. Let me know about any issues with it!

Next update(s):
High School DxD V23 Life.2 (Part 4 of 4): On hold until Chinese TL is available.
Shinmai Maou no Keiyakusha V7 Chapter 4 (Part 10 of 13): ~24/10.
Seikoku no Ryuu Kishi V7 Chapter 3: On hold.

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