Dec 042013

It seems like the Blu-Ray release of Girls Und Panzer from Sentai Filmworks has put the fan-favorite series back into discussion lately, and it’s not difficult to see why.  It has the sort of delightfully crazy premise that only anime could bring us, and show itself is surprisingly entertaining.  It’s also not the only recent anime series to combine the seemingly opposite appeals of “cute girls being cute” and “things blowing up real good.”  For your convenience, dear reader, I’ve brought together the good, the bad, and the incomprehensible of this charmingly odd subgenre.  Panzer Vor!


Stella Women’s Academy, High School Division Class C3


First rule of character design: the shortest girl gets the oversized sniper rifle.

This show with an incredibly long title follows Girls Und Panzer’s lead in adopting the plot structure of a typical sports anime, but trades vintage tanks for airsoft guns.  The idea of giving a cast of high school girls an arsenal of replica assault rifles may make some gun control proponents a bit uneasy, but the series itself is generally competent and good-natured.  Apart from a few awkward episodes, C3 generally avoids the temptation to sexualize the “girls with guns” premise, and the plot focuses primarily on themes of friendship and self-empowerment.  The main character’s overactive imagination allows for some interesting stylistic choices as she pictures the airsoft battles as cinematic action sequences.  C3 won’t rock your world, but it’s certainly good enough to be worth watching.


Arpeggio of Blue Steel


Good luck imitating that hairstyle, cosplayers.

If you took Girls Und Panzer, combined it with the classic board game Battleship, and cranked the proverbial volume to eleven, you might end up with Arpeggio of Blue Steel.  The show features an armada of unmanned naval vessels, each one operated by an artificial intelligence personified as (you guessed it!) an attractive woman in a slightly ridiculous outfit.  The lively and diverse battleship girls start out as the villains of the series, fighting against a ragtag band of uninteresting humans and their awesome submarine.  As the series goes on, however, we begin to get hints that the dreadnought dames might not be all bad, and perhaps there’s hope for peace.  Blue Steel is a strange series for sure, but isn’t all good anime a bit bonkers?


Strike Witches


This was about as tame as the promotional art ever got.

You may remember this series from the “War on Pants” promotional campaign that Funimation ran for it.  To be perfectly honest, they were right on target with that slogan, since the female cast of Strike Witches apparently never took Wardrobe 101.  Ostensibly modeled after famous World War II pilots, the plucky airborne heroines suit up with some baffling leg propeller units, then take to the sky to shoot down aliens with machine guns.  If you can get past the absurd outfits and sleazy camera angles, there’s a surprisingly good sci-fi action show to be found.  If not, you may want to avoid flying these friendly skies.




Never use the expression “Just shoot me” at this school.

If you thought the idea of arming schoolgirls with replica assault rifles was an odd premise, you may want to sit down for this one.  Upotte takes place at a special school where the students don’t just use firearms, they literally are firearms.  Automatic rifles from around the world are personified as quirky teenagers, with each weapon’s characteristics featured in the character’s personality or appearance.  For example, the M16A4 fires a three-round burst instead of being fully automatic, so its character is only energetic in quick bursts.  If you’ve just been hired by the ATF and need to familiarize yourself with the weapons you’ll be seizing from criminals, this is probably the most amusing way to do it.  While it’s surprisingly informative about its subject matter, Upotte also plays the sex appeal card on a regular basis and is genuinely bizarre.  It’s probably best approached with an open mind and perhaps a few bottles of beer.


Kawaii Overthink is written by Paul Jensen. You can follow his ramblings about anime on Twitter.
Dec 032013

I’ll bet a lot of you are in a similar position right now: you just spent anywhere between 500 and 1,000 dollars on next-gen game consoles, games and accessories and now you have little to no disposable income left to buy Christmas presents for friends and family. You need cheap gifts for your fellow gamer friends, but nothing that’s of low quality. Well, thanks to the Internet you can find tons of great presents for your fellow geeks for mere pennies. All you need for most of these suggestions are some form of memory device (preferably a compact disk or flash drive), maybe a bit of printer paper and ink, and some time:


Find some free-to-download video game music and burn it to a disk.


Avoiding piracy websites of questionable legality, you can find plenty of great video game soundtracks online for free download. If you’re looking for some classics ranging from the days of the NES and Genesis to the Gamecube/PlayStation era, I’d recommend Kingdom Hearts Insider. Though it’s a Kingdom Hearts fansite, this website also has a massive digital library of video game music. Another amazing video game music site that should be mentioned here is OverClocked ReMix. This organization promotes the artistic value of video game music by featuring tens of thousands of user-submitted remixes, all free to download. OverClocked ReMix users even collaborate on themed albums, again all free to download (their latest album, a tribute to the music of Sonic CD, was released last week). If you have a friend who loves music from a game, download some songs, make a playlist, burn a CD then find your artistic side by decorating the disk and its case. It’s a handmade gift that can definitely show a friend you put some thought into it.


Freeware games are your friends!


There are tons of game developers out there, some of whom simply wish to be recognized. This leads to many developers putting out their games for free. If you look around, you can find tons of websites that list off great freeware games to try out. is a great place to start; it features tons of new popular freeware games. Another website I found, The Game Hippo, includes download links for tons of old favorites, from the frustratingly hard I Wanna Be The Guy to the original version of Cave Story. Just like the aforementioned video game soundtracks, burn a freeware game (or two) to a disk, make some custom packaging and you’ve got another handmade gift for a friend!


There are so many free-to-play PC games to choose from!


This is especially useful if you have Steam, through which you can create a few strategies for gifts. Free-to-play games aren’t giftable on Steam, but if you found a way to get into a friend’s Steam account and install the games while they’re not looking, will they notice that it’s a free game first or that a friend got them this game? Hmm? What if you have a friend or family member who hasn’t heard of Steam? Download Steam (for free) onto their computer and load it up with free-to-play games for them to try! If you’re not feeling stealthy, note that most free-to-play games are free to play because they have an in-game store. Though we’re talking about buying things here, it’s important to point out that many items in these in-game stores are relatively cheap. Download a game your friend plays for free, and then spend no more than five bucks in the in-game store buying a gift for your friend’s profile. There are so many gift ideas you can try out on Steam with a low budget! Speaking of which…


If you DO want to spend some money on game gifts, keep an eye out for sales!


A benefit of buying games on the Internet is there are always sales going on, and websites have even popped up to help you keep track of what games are on sale. Steam, of course, has massive sales on games all the time, where some games can literally bough for pennies. As for other websites, turn to CheapAssGamer, a forum-like website that keeps track of every major video game sale going on daily, from online stores to chain stores at your local shopping mall. Social media site Reddit also has its own page set up to track video game deals. It tends to focus more on web sales but as such updates much more frequently.

There you have it. Hopefully this brief guide will ease the stress of shopping during this non-specific festive winter season!


The Minus World is written by Steven Brasley. You can keep up with his thoughts on gaming via Twitter.
Dec 022013

Forza Motorsport 5 has been out for a while now, and chances are you’ve started to accumulate a decent stable of cars.  So, what does your virtual garage say about your personality?  Well, that depends a awful lot on what’s in it.  Are you a brand loyalist?  A vintage collector?  Maybe a stingy credit miser?  This list will hopefully shed some light.


Nothing but all-wheel drive cars: The Off-Roader


Is it pronounced EE-vo or EH-vo? COMMENCE ARGUMENT!

Let’s be honest: you may have bought Forza, but you’re really just biding your time until a next-gen rally game comes out.  Look at that army of Subarus and Mitsubishis you’ve amassed.  Sure, you can talk all you like about how AWD makes for fast standing starts, but we know the truth: every time you see dirt on the other side of the rumble strips, some part of you wants to dive right into it and slide from corner to corner.  You long to have an AI navigator calling out directions in rally shorthand as you ramp off dirt mounds and drift through puddles.  Deep down, you really just want to get these high-resolution car models covered in mud, and that’s OK.  Just stop cutting every corner in sight, all right?


Multiple cars from a single brand: The Loyalist


Yo momma’s so dumb she bought a C63 AMG instead of an M3 sedan.

Your garage is filled with Ferraris, or maybe a bevy of BMWs.  Perhaps you’ve bought every version of the Nissan GT-R in existence.  You’re bringing in extra cash from affinity bonuses, but that’s just icing on the cake as far as you’re concerned.  At the end of the day, you’re in love with a particular manufacturer.  Seeing that prancing horse, raging bull, or blue-and-white checkerboard circle thingy in the center of your steering wheel makes you all giddy inside.  You get into heated forum debates about what company makes the best sport sedans or supercars, and you never back down from an argument.  It doesn’t matter that your favorite cars are stupidly expensive or not suited to the track you’re driving on, because that’s not why you’re here.  To be fair, it makes sense.  It’s easier to buy a dozen Ferraris in Forza than in real life.


Vintage cars: The Curator


Meet the old Boss, same as the… uh… old Boss.

This isn’t a game to you: it’s a virtual museum of automotive history, and you’re in charge of selecting the best exhibits.  Racing with you is like watching Antiques Roadshow, but with a much better soundtrack.  Your cars may have skinny tires, useless brakes, and terminal oversteer, but damn do they sound good.  Or at least they would, if their engine notes weren’t drowned out by your rants about the good old days of motoring and how modern cars have no soul.  Your refusal to upgrade your cars (why mess with perfection?) won’t win you many races, but as far as you’re concerned, the moral victory is all yours.


The cheapest car from every class: The Accountant


Not sure if the Miata’s actually the best value in its class, but it’s pretty and I’m lazy.

At first glance, your virtual garage doesn’t seem to hold any special patterns.  Different brands, different vintages, different drivetrains, nothing seems the same.  But a quick glance at your massive stockpile of credits reveals the truth: you’re a bargain-hunter.  You’re not in this for style or history; all you care about is getting the highest allowable Performance Index for the least amount of credits.  The other racers may call you a soulless bean counter, but as they struggle to scrape together the cash for that six-figure supercar, you’re out setting fast lap times.  After all, the leaderboards don’t lie.


Nothing at all: The Xbox 360 Owner

What a bunch of suckers the other guys are.  They shelled out hundreds of dollars for a new console just to argue about Drivatars (whatever those are!).  Who cares if all your Forza 4 friends are slowly disappearing into the mysterious world of Xbox One?  You saved a bunch of money, which means you can finally justify buying all those overpriced add-ons.  They may have better graphics, better physics, and force feedback in their triggers, but you have eleventy billion cars.  Eleventy billion low-res, last-gen cars.  You’re the smart one… right?


Pit Box One is written by Paul Jensen. You can follow his thoughts on video games and motor racing on Twitter.