Well, its been a long time coming, but a few certain things have forced me out of my slumber. One of those things is a certain series called Higurashi no Naku Koro ni. (translates to “When the Higurashi Cry”, Higurashi being a certain type of insect). And this post was even further delayed when I decided I would wait till I finished watching the conclusion OVA Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Rei.
I have decided to review the two seasons of Higurashi and the OVA separately for reasons I will explain later. There are some minor spoilers, especially in the 2nd and 3rd review.
Higurashi no Naku Koro ni
Where should I start with this series? Suspense, mystery, horror are genres that we see associated with many anime, but many fail to do any of them, especially the horror bit, well. Higurashi does fall in those genres but raises the bar so high that even its own sequel pales in comparison.
Perfect pacing, along with a soundtrack that fits every situation, Higurashi is a marvel of the genre. The story is told in a unique way, it being divided into chapters, where a certain portion of the timeline is repeated in the town of Hinamaziwa. Each is different in who kills who and how it goes about. What’s great is how it manages to tell each chapter letting you know a little more each episode, keeping you in the dark, but still not irritatingly so.
It’s hard to describe the plot with spoiling anything, but in a nutshell, the town of Hinamaziwa has a certain murder trend, where on the night of Watanagashi, certain people are murdered and certain people disappear every year. This is attributed to Oyashiro-sama’s curse, who is the local deity of the village. However, the killings begin after plans of a controversial dam construction come to light. If the dam was completed, the villagers would be displaced. Thus ensued the Dam War. After the Dam War ended, people would die every year.
The story centers around 5 students who go to a small village school. Although at first it may seem that Keichi is the main character of the series, just about every character gets their time in the spotlight (until the focus shifts almost entirely on just one character in the next season). This balance is handled very well, and everyone’s story is just as interesting as the last.
I think the biggest reason why this anime is so good, is that it actually managed to scare me! I never thought something animated could do it, but it did, and did it without resorting to excessive gore. Although there is a lot of blood, none of it seems unwarranted (unlike series like Elfen Lied). It is used to show the sheer contrast of the characters and how far they are willing to go.
In all, I can’t really think of things that detract from the anime, True, the animation is not the best, but its not something that really affects the overall experience. The opening song completely fits with the series, as does the ending. In fact the ending would have been perfect if the lyrics weren’t in engrish (why they decided to do the entire thing in English is beyond me). However, I still think that the series deserves a 10/10.
Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai
Well, this series is… different. Granted, it’s a continuation of the same story, but you can almost go as far as saying the entire genre changed with the anime. No murderous, psycho lolis, no suspense and no horror. Considering that’s what made the first series so unique, I was taken aback quite a bit.
The entire series is mostly just about answering all the questions from the first series, since the first series only really managed to clear a few things up. The focus is shifted to Rika Farude, who didn’t have much role in the first series, besides being generally mysterious.
The problem I have with this series is some of the situations and how they are handled. The chapter that made me think this was some other series, is the Massacre Chapter. Dialogue is borderline cheesy. And how it was so hard to get a girl getting abused by her guardian to safety just doesn’t make any sense. Uhhh, the girl has to say that she’s getting abused? Since when???
Kinda Big Spoiler Ahead:
The last few episodes also made the series’ respect take a hit with the afterschool club taking on commando level opponents. The series that once prided itself on somewhat surreal but still believable situations somehow got itself into a sticky mess in Satoko’s traps…
However, as far as the story is concerned, it wrapped up most of the loose ends in a satisfactory manner, so I can’t be too hard on the series. In all, it gets 8/10 from me.
Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Rei
This was just a 5 episode OVA, and while it doesn’t add much to the lore of Hinamaziwa, the sub-arc (episodes 2,3 and 4) tells a nice what-if situation that Rika must face. And though it was resolved quickly, the impact of the decision she had to make was definitely felt. The final episode revolved around Rena when she accidently swallows a love charm. It was actually pretty funny(unlike the many times the series tried), as it made fun of the series itself and put characters like Takano in very different situations. In all, the OVA deserves another 8/10.
Every time I hear, “They stole our jobs!” from people in Western countries I cant help but feel bitter from the irony. Even worse is when people sympathize by saying things like,”Well this is America (or England or Australia, insert your pick there), these jobs belong to Americans.
This, from the countries that spearheaded the Globalization phenomenon? Who stole who’s jobs first? Who took over markets that the local population could not compete with? (I’m sure we’ll never see an Indian chain that can compete with McDonalds. Pepsi, Coke anyone?) Since the time India had decided that Globalization was the right path (which it was) countless cottage industries were destroyed in the process. The West planted the seeds of globalization, created a beast they couldn’t control and when it comes to bite them back they blame the rest of the world?
But that’s not the point. I’m not blaming the West, just revealing the hypocrisy. Globalization is synonymous with progress and competition. The moment you accept globalization, you also have to accept that that precious job you’re talking about belongs to anyone who deserves it. If you truly think that jobs belong to countrymen alone, then go move to North Korea, or live in a forest somewhere if you cant handle progress. Progress and competition go hand in hand. You cant have your cake and eat it at the same time.
Obama’s recent words encouraging kids to work harder as their competition are people from India and China is something I appreciate. He could have easily acted as the usual political demagogue, but he understands that competition is something that is never going to go away. Although I’m sure there will be even more people that take his words in the wrong way and will continue to blame the East for all their problems, hopefully a handful of people will understand that the West cannot rest on its laurels and is required to work like the rest of us.
Well, the big topic of the hour is racism. The big protests in Australia and the general undercurrent feeling of all minorities abroad is that they aren’t feeling the love they used to get.
Kumar quite correctly explained in his blog The Monster Within that racism is a lot closer to home than we Indians tend to admit. In fact, this is just not about Indians. Everybody, and I mean everybody, is a little racist. To say that you are not racist implies that you have no unfounded bias (positive or negative) against or for anyone on the planet. This simply is not true (well maybe except in the case of babies before any biases can be formed at all).
I’d like to justify this with a little thought, and that is, any opinion that you do not form out of your own experience is somebody else’s opinion.
What I mean to say is that unless you have experienced something firsthand, your thoughts on a subject are somebody else’s. You might have seen it on the news, read about it in a magazine (all incredibly biased sources of information, I might add). Your views on the Iraq war? Guess what, they are most likely somebody else’s. I am not saying we are not capable of forming our own opinions. You might argue that after reading an article, you found that you did not agree with it, thus making it your own thought. But why did you disagree? You found another viewpoint more accurate and most likely, you didn’t come up with it on your own.
So racism. To be completely unbiased, means that you would have to travel the entire world, see each and every race and ethnicity for yourself and form your opinion. Any other kind of thought is simply a bias. Now this is obviously not very practical, and thus my conclusion that everybody is racist.
Am I justifying racism? Of course not, but people have taken things way out of hand and have forgotten what not being racist really means. The latest movie from Disney called The Princess and the Frog is about a princess who kisses a frog, but turns into a amphibian as well.
And that should have been the end of it. Disney would have created your average family cartoon movie that would make the children happy and blah blah. But the princess is black. So that means that a lot of people are going to start a HUGE race row. Suddenly Disney has to check its bases a million times over to make sure that they are politically correct at every frame in the movie. A cognitive psychologist Michael Baran said, “Because of Disney’s history of stereotyping, people are really excited to see how Disney will handle her language, her culture, her physical attributes”. So people are gearing up for the kill.
This is where the contradiction lies. If you are truly not racist, then it shouldn’t matter whether the princess is black or white. A person who is not racist, is not biased either way, and would just watch the movie for the sake of the movie. So these supposedly anti-racist people that are waiting to pounce upon the movie are the most racist of all. They are trying to expose the differences at a time when we are supposed to be overlooking them.
As a result of this pressure, I’m sure Disney will cave and produce a thoroughly boring movie. The sad part is that this movie is intended for kids. Most kids don’t really care about race and that’s how it should stay. When I saw The Jungle Book as a kid I didn’t even realize that the apes were voiced by African Americans. I just thought it was funny, not noticing any differences, which is the key to not being racist. These so-called politically correct people are trying to deepen the divide and we shouldn’t let them do it.
Dreams are something that have boggled mankind for ages. We believe that dreams are built from the subconscious. Now from our previous discussions, we likened our consciousness to a virtual serial processor. So where does this subconscious fit into our parallel-serial processor combination? Well, from what we think of the subconscious, we can think of it as another type of memory, one which I shall call the cache memory of the brain.
For those that do not know, the cache memory in a computer is a very fast, very small amount of memory that is directly integrated with the processor. It stores the information that is currently in use by the processor, and information related to the process the processor is executing. In simpler terms, say you are playing a game on your computer. Your processor is executing many processes, and to make it go faster, game related processes are stored in the cache for quick access by the processor.
Our mind does something similar when we think about something. It automatically creates a list of things associated with that something for easy access in our subconscious. If you think about any single object, such as a book or a person, your brain will come up with various examples of a book and information regarding that person.
Now back to why we dream. First, the difference between a dream that occurs during sleep and a daydream. A daydream is nothing more than our imagination, artificial reality at its best. But dreams that occur during sleep are very different altogether. They are incredibly random, at times bringing people and events from different eras of your life together. They don’t follow any set progression or pattern. We don’t dream all the time, and we tend to forget most of what we dream.
I wrote in Evolutionary Creationism, that the brain has an infinitely powerful graphics engine which is limited by only how much we know. I also wrote that the brain has a set of definite data structures that it uses to store information. If we take these premises as true, I have an (although seemingly farfetched) idea of what is really happening when we dream. If there are definite data structures for the brain, then the brain must clean up and organize the contents every now and then for fast access. In other words, the brain must defragment its memory.
So how does this result in a dream? During the process of defragmentation in a computer, clusters of data are swapped all across the hard disk while they are being organized. These clusters of data will come from very different files and processes, and will go through the cache to be processed by the processor before being relocated to another area in the memory. If the brain does the same thing while defragmenting, then we can guess that when each memory goes through the subconscious, it gets processed by the processor, our consciousness, which is responsible for simulation. Thus, the dream is created of random memories while our consciousness works to clean up our brain while we sleep. You might ask, why then can’t you dream while you are awake? Well, most people know it is inadvisable to work on data that you are defragmenting. The brain takes this into account and chooses the time when the conscious is inactive, and can have full control.
Of course this is not a solid conclusion made from experiments, and all are welcome to tear apart my argument to shreds in the comments.
Those that know me, know that I love Lost. I probably would like it even if they decided to replace all the characters with various animals and character interactions were given by subtitles and word bubbles. So I suppose with my slightly biased view of Lost, most might take what I have to say about it with a grain of salt. But all said and done, whatever you want to say about the rest of the season, the season finale was just amazing!
Lost spoilers from here on, if you haven’t seen the finale, go watch it!! If you don’t watch Lost, well I have nothing to say to the likes of people like that…
Well, I would like to to point out a few things some people might not have noticed.
First of all, in all the flashbacks except for one , Jacob was present. The one where he wasn’t present was Juliet’s. And she died… well most probably died anyway… I don’t think that that was just a coincidence.
Next, what lies behind the shadow of the statue? Did a little research and people have come up with two very different translations of Richard’s answer:
1. The four horsemen of Death
2. The one who will save us all.
I’m more inclined to think its the latter choice…
Last up… what the hell is Jack’s Dad?? While, the discovery of Locke’s body proves that the Locke is not who he says he was, Jack’s Dad’s body was missing from the coffin when Jack found it wayyyy back in season 1. Of course somebody could have just taken it…. but I don’t know. Also, my guess is that when Locke went to the cabin the first time with Ben, and heard “help me”, I’m guessing it wasn’t Jacob, but the other guy that wanted to kill him. It could’ve been then that he somehow latched on to Locke waiting for him to die or something….
Ah well, with the way they ended it, they could take the story anywhere. Well except of course for the bomb actually working and everyone landing safely in Los Angeles with no problems whatsoever…. man can’t wait a whole year for it!!
There are a growing number of theists that believe that God and evolution are compatible. Even I considered that the possibility was plausible for quite some time. However I now believe that they are completely incompatible. I shall attempt to explain my views by criticizing the one thing that makes us so special : the Brain.
Granted, we have very useful and comparatively rare features like opposable thumbs and bipedal movement, but our brain really tops the list. Let me start by saying one thing: the brain is not all its cracked up to be. Bold words maybe, but I feel that too many people treat the brain as this omnipotent source of power. Don’t get me wrong, the brain is a magnificent and powerful organ, but we should not kid ourselves.
For the purpose of my argument, I would like to compare our brain with a computer. Its not a new comparison I know, but I think I can get a little bit more out of it. First of all, the processor. I explained a little before in Virtualization about Daniel Dennett’s and Richard Dawkins’ view on the brain. They believed that the brain is fundamentally a parallel processor, which is how our body can effectively control the millions of processes that go on in our body, on top of which a virtual serial processor is built. A parallel processor is a type of processor that is divided into many processors. In terms of computer problems, a parallel processor can enable a problem to be divided into sub-problems, send them to multiple different processors and then these processors send the results back to the main processor. A serial processor can only handle one process or problem at a time. The way a serial processor handles many processes at the same time is by continuously switching between processes so fast that it appears to be running them in parallel.
This is astoundingly similar to how our own thought process works. You cannot think of two things at the time. Try for yourself if you want, but you will find yourself switching between one thought and the other. You may argue that if that were so, we would not be able to multitask. The truth is, you can’t, not in the way a parallel processor does anyway. Think about talking on the phone and driving. Your attention will flit between both continuously. If we really were able to multitask in a parallel manner, I suppose that things like car accidents would be very rare. But we cannot, and with every task we add, we halve our efficiency.
The next part of the computer is the memory.
A computer uses definite data structures to represent memory. This is to improve information retrieval times. The brain definitely uses a definite structure (although far more complex) as well. First of all, your memory is not perfect. You do forget things (sometimes completely). Some things, usually more recent things, come to you faster than older things. We do not remember every single sentence the English language has, instead we remember certain rules. Also, the addition of certain clues or hints, can jog your memory.
As you might have guessed, these are same limitations and features of modern day memory we find in computers. While, computers don’t forget things, they have a definite limit, exceeding which they must delete excess information. Recent events and processes are usually handled in the RAM where they can be stored for fast access. Older things stay in secondary memory like a hard drive, which is much slower. The rules that we remember to use English, are similar to compression of information in a computer, which also uses a rule to encode data. For retrieval of information, lets use Google as an example. The more keywords you put, the closer you get to what you were looking for. The brain’s memory does this as well. Except the brain has the ability to associate not just text with a memory, but sounds, images, even video.
A quick side note about video that the brain handles. We don’t remember memories frame by frame. Instead, we remember the conditions, the people etc, and rebuild it again with our imagination. I think this can be compared to the difference between pre-rendered cut scenes and in-game engine cut scenes we see in current video games. Our brain is more like an infinitely powerful graphics engine that can virtualize events depending on how many conditions you remember.
Now you might be thinking,” Well that’s well and good, he’s given some argument on how we’re similar to computers, but what does that have to do with evolution?”.
The thing is, evolution of species and evolution of computers happened in very similar ways. Both grew from binary logic. Species have the strict logic of either two things: survive or die. It either works or it doesn’t. But they have had one big difference.
I haven’t read The Blind Watchmaker yet, but I guess the analogy that Dawkins is trying to convey in the book is that the evolutionary process is blind. That is, a blind watchmaker can only know if his watch is working in the end (perhaps by the sound of the watch ticking or something). Since he is blind, he must try every permutation and combination of the available resources he has and check. Obviously, this will take a very long time. However, eventually, he will get it right (assuming this watchmaker has got a lot of time on his hands).
The first electronic computer (ENIAC) was built in 1945. Its 2009 now and we can see the level of advancement in electronics. I have no doubt that we will be able to simulate the human mind completely by the end of the century. This is because we have guided the evolution of the computer. We have not made every permutation and combination of electronic components, because we have the ability to simulate and make sure that we can make a working computer on our first chance.
This is where Evolutionary Creationism doesn’t make sense. If our evolution was guided by God who definitely would have had the ability to simulate situations as well, humans would have been created in less then a millennium. This has to be wrong, because if you believe in evolution, you also have to believe that it has been going on for a very, very long time, simply from fossil evidence and such. Well, if you don’t believe in such evidence, then there’s not much argument, but as for me, it does not make sense that God had anything to do with evolution.
I am largely basing my articles on the theories of Richard Dawkins published in The Selfish Gene. He has took up a gene-centric view of evolution which I feel best explains the phenomena. In his book he reasons that it is the gene that is the unit of evolution and the implications this has. While this makes a lot of sense at present when we know that our hereditary information is passed on through our genes, in the beginning the ‘gene’ as we know it didn’t exist. Of course, we cant say what exactly happened millions of years ago, but quite a few educated guesses can be made. Dawkins has theorized that simple compounds called replicators existed and had only one purpose, ie. to replicate. At that stage, evolution occurred when a replicator made a mistake while replicating and produced a new compound. If the new compound had desirable traits, it survived. Otherwise, it perished. Eventually, these replicators mutated so much that had created ‘gene machines’ to protect themselves from the outside world. They would be hidden away, but their main instruction to their gene machine was clear: to stay alive till replication.
Now, onto the topic at hand, Emotion. We know that most animals exhibit emotions. Since we can see emotion in most life forms, we can guess that it is a desirable trait (otherwise the species would have died out, and emotions along with it). However, emotion is a very abstract term. It refers to quite a few chemical and neural processes. Some interesting findings about these processes can be found here. It also involves the memory, for example an emotion like desire can come from wanting something once had.
So emotion is quite a complex feature integrated (quite literally) into our bodies. So why was it deemed necessary? And how did it come about?
I think we can all guess why its necessary. Emotions like fear can save many a life. Anger can protect one. But we are getting way ahead of ourselves. Even if there was a need for it, evolution happens by chance and mutation, a little at a time. I think I can guess what the first ‘emotion’ was by thinking about the worst act we humans consider committing – cannibalism. We regard it as an act against nature itself. And its probably true. I think this revulsion dates all the way back to the days of the replicator and the first gene machines. An obviously good trait to maximize your own kind is not to destroy your own kind. I also think that this is where memory and some sort of sensory apparatus for the gene machine began. The ability to sense other gene machines through contact and analyze if they were the same requires memory to at least know what your comparing against. A comparator would also be needed for checking, and this could probably be seen as the brain of the gene machine.
Now that was all mostly science, so lets get to the philosophy bit of the article… why happiness? When thinking of most animals, they have two major states, an agitated state where they usually display negative emotions, and a stable state where they exhibit… well, nothing really. And this is well good enough for survival. So why the extra mile? Well I believe that basically by adding happiness to the list of emotions is equivalent to encoding the will to live into the gene machine. The main instruction a gene programs into a gene machine is to live until replication. By adding happiness, it makes sense that this instruction can be carried out more effectively.
Almost feels like we’re in the matrix now…. following a gene’s will. But that’s the trap that we should always watch out for. A gene does not have a will and does not want anything.
Well that’s it for now… mind is a bit tired from all the thinking. I think I’ll talk a bit about Creationism next time…
The latest news from Rockstar!
…No its not a new GTA game, its a sequel to a game nobody played, Red Dead Redemption.
Now western-styled games have never been too popular… ever. I myself am not a great fan of the genre, both in movies and games. However, co-founder of Rockstar, Dan Houser revealed some interesting things about the new game and even a sceptic like me cant fail to notice some good work going on there.
First of all, Rockstar has touted the game to be All-round package of a western, unlike previous attempts before which used to focus on just one part of the experience. Being a game from Rockstar, I think we can hold them to that. The game will focus a lot on exploration and in some ways it looks like they are taking a leaf from Fallout 3.
Next, I have to say one thing… the game looks amazing! If they can maintain decent framerates, at least as well as in GTA4, I think Rockstar will accomplish what they are trying to do. Its really important that they do too since this will probably make or break the Western genre of games depending on its success. Basically, if Rockstar cant do it right, nobody can. (and nobody will try)
It doesn’t look like this is going to grace the PC, and there really is a very small chance of it coming (like after blockbuster sales on the consoles) so lets hope it does well!