Saturday, February 24, 2024

Like a Butterfly volume 4 (manga review)

A school boy with a pleasant closed lip part smile in uniform with a butterfly
    Like a Butterfly vol. 4 by Suu Morishita (the duo behind Shortcake Cake) finally gets this story going. The firth three volumes had me a bit annoyed because I really felt like Suiren's character wasn't realistic. She was the perfect beauty who was too shy to talk other than answering questions in class, etc... I didn't so much mind Taichi's characters reservation around her since he did seem to talk to others and was just shy around her. 
    Thankfully, in this volume, they get past all the super awkward avoiding each other stuff and both put in effort to communicate with each other, spend time with each other, and actually move the burgeoning relationship along. That gives me hope that this series will spend some serious time with them as a couple and not linger on the will-they-won't-they (which has it's place, for sure) given that I didn't love the way her shyness was presented. 
    As always, the art is well done, and has plenty of screen tones and sparkles. For the most-part we don't get much in the way of detailed backgrounds and so the panel layouts are pretty simple, often headshots or shoulder up. But when they're doing realism, it's got a nice look to it. Certainly not my favorite manga art, but better than average.
    I'll definitely keep reading this series, especially now that it's actually going somewhere.


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Sing "Yesterday" For Me (anime review)

Two young adults and two teens sit on a bench indoors
    I definitely have mixed feelings about the anime "Sing 'YESTERDAY' For Me." Parts of it felt very true and realistic, but other parts were a bit problematic to me.
    There are three primary characters, two women and a man (that right there tells you most of what you need to know about why I don't love this series). The man, Rikuo, is a college graduate working multiple part-time jobs, and slowly working towards his true passion: photography. He has pined for Shinako, his college-crush, for years. They reconnect when she takes a job as a school teacher in the same area. At the same time, high-school drop out (?) Haru, who is maybe about 16 or 17 (?) starts hanging out with him at his job and coming around to see him. (her age relative to his - mid twenties? - is the other main reason I have issue with this series).
    It's not quite a love triangle, in that Rikuo is pretty clearly in love with Shinako, Haru is pretty clearly infatuated with Rikuo, and Shinako, while ultimately trying to date Rikuo, is still stuck on her dead boyfriend whose younger brother is still in her life and very explicitly wants to be with Shinako. So it's a tangled mess that would have sat better with me had Haru and the dead boyfriend's brother been the same age as Rikuo and Shinako. If they were all teens or all adults, then this would have had the change to be an interesting look at hearts and grief and growing up, and finding yourself. But that age gap was distracting for me. Possibly more for me than it would have for others given the prevalence (at least in anime/manga or high-school girls and older guys). But no matter the norms, I really wish they were older.
    Anyway, what I liked about the series was the inner complexity of Shinako, being torn between forever mourning her dead boyfriend and earnestly trying to move on with life. I also really liked watching how Rikuo took steps to better himself and his career throughout the series. Those two felt reasonably fleshed out. And (SPOILER) if they had stayed together, I wouldn't have been disappointed at all. In fact, I could have seen Rikuo having a conversation with Haru about how she needed to carve her own path into adulthood (similar to the one towards the end of After the Rain) that would have shown some real emotional maturity in Rikuo (and the series creator). But instead (SPOILER) Shinako goes to the brother and Rikuo can't bear to be without Haru and that just doesn't sit right for me. It's too neat a bow, it's not messy enough, it just didn't feel complex, it felt expected. And that was a disappointment.
    In some ways, After the Rain, is an interesting comparison piece exploring how an adult can handle a teen's feelings sensitively while also being confused themselves in what to do. That series didn't take the easy way out to find some acceptable way for that May/December pairing to actually happen. But Sing "Yesterday" for Me, did take the easy way out. Too bad. 
    The other series that kept coming to mind was Honey and Clover, one of the greatest Josei series of all time. In that series, they are college students or older, so the age issues are really not much of a problem, but they are going through many of the same feelings: grief, self-discovery, passion, etc... and it's handled with messiness but also ultimate growth and some resolution for each. I'm not sure where the growth was for either Rikuo or Shinako in any area other than Rikuo's career. They both ultimately chose to be with immature teens with a lot of their own figuring out to do and (as a parent) I worry that these teens being with these older folks will ultimately prevent the teens from doing the self-discovery and growth that they could otherwise be doing at these ages.
    I wouldn't recommend this show, it wasn't a bad watch, nothing overtly problematic, but not an emotional reward either. 
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Please legitimately purchase or borrow manga and anime. Never read scanlations or watch fansubs. Those rob the creators of the income they need to survive and reduce the chance of manga and anime being legitimately released in English.

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Cocoon Entwined vol. 5 review (manga)

A high school girl with long hair flowing after her and a long flowing black uniform
    Honestly, I still barely know what's going on in this series. Cocoon Entwined vol. 5 continues to follow the girls of Hoshimiya Girls' Academy. But thankfully, the back text of the volume helped me confirm what I thought was going on.
     I think the largest part of that is how hard it is for me to understand is identifying which girl is which in each panel. It could be that I genuinely struggle with peoples faces in real life (which I really do), or maybe it's that I've got that horrible white person disease of thinking everyone from any other background looks the same (I really hope I don't), or maybe the art is just that indistinct at times. Thankfully, there are a few characters I can differentiate and some of them are lead characters which helps. 
    It also doesn't help that the volumes are published so far apart in time and I usually only read a bit of the prior one to help get situated. A full read through the entire series from front to back is definitely warranted once it's complete, just to see if it hangs together a bit neater and clearer that way.
    Hoshimiya (same name as the school) has mysteriously disappeared (run away in an earlier volume). The school is left somewhat in a tither over it. Ayane continues to be manipulative. And they are all preparing for a final dance. Hana Saeki continues her half-hearted dalience with Ayane and agrees to go to the dance with her, but in the background Youko hasn't given up on Hoshimiya yet and asks a teacher to get a letter to her. And yet we know it's Saeki and Hoshimiya that are linked, even though they are apart. So why is Saeki dancing with Ayane? What is Youko really hoping to accomplish writing to Hoshimiya?
    It's a tangled web of feelings at Hoshimiya Girls' Academy where they are all bound by some really creepy traditions and maybe something more disturbing. I read it mostly because of Saeki and Youko (whose faces I can almost always tell apart from the others) and to find out more about what created the independent streak in Hoshimiya. I'm also a little bit intrigued by the supernatural element and the art continues to be interesting and unique, even if a bit tough to decipher. I can't say it's a great, or even very good series, but it's different. So I'll be waiting for volume 6
    
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Please legitimately purchase or borrow manga and anime. Never read scanlations or watch fansubs. Those rob the creators of the income they need to survive and reduce the chance of manga and anime being legitimately released in English.

All comments are moderated by a real person who only checks them once a day. Therefore, comments may take a while before they show up. Thanks for understanding. It's how we keep this a community of lovingkindness.

Friday, December 22, 2023

Emanon Vol. 4 - Emanon Wander Part Three (Manga review)

A teen girl in a school sailor uniform with a flowering tree behind her. She has a serious expression on her face.
    I didn't think this volume would ever come out. But it popped up on my Amazon recommendations, and so I rushed to purchase "Emanon Vol.4 - Emanon Wander Part Three." This is the continuing manga adaptation of a series of short stories about a woman who has all the memories of all her mothers before her back to the beginning of life on Earth. 
    The series is very much of its time, meaning when the original short stories were written in the 1980s. However, the premise is still interesting and the art in the manga is extraordinary. It's different, it's loose and tight at the same time, it's evocative, and very much evokes the earnestness of the series. And while the series is a bit self-serious, that's okay too because it lends an aura of transcendence that the art beautifully enhances.
    All that said, this volume felt weaker than some of the others, looser, and a bit disjointed. We get some new insight into other aspects of her existence and history, meet some important new characters that appear likely to recur, but overall it's just not quite as tight a volume as some of the others. Still interesting.
    What is most fascinating to me, is that I was expecting this to the final volume, but it ends with a "to be continued" and some setups that beg to be explored and resolved in future volumes. Here's hoping that we'll get those a bit faster than the time between this and the previous volume.

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Please legitimately purchase or borrow manga and anime. Never read scanlations or watch fansubs. Those rob the creators of the income they need to survive and reduce the chance of manga and anime being legitimately released in English.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Short Takes: Kageki Shojo!! 8, Citrus+ 5, and My Pancreas Broke but my Life got Better


Citrus Plus Vol. 5 Kageki Shojo!! Vol. 8 My Pancreas Broke But My Life Got Better

Citrus + (plus) Volume 5
    Yuzu runs into her old middle school friends. She's with Mei and doesn't properly introduce them. Yuzu is torn about how to tell them while fearing they might leave her. Like the rest of the Citrus + series, this volume is definitely lighter as well as a bit more realistic than the original series. If you've been liking this sequel series, this is a total normal volume in that series.

Kageki Shojo!! Vol. 8
    The fall-out of Sarasa missing her first performance due to her sick grandfather. The students also move into their second year. Narata also begins some self-discovery about what her path in the theater might look like. A good overall volume.

My Pancreas Broke but my Life Got Better
    The next volume in the ongoing autobiography manga series by Nagata Kabi. This is the series that started with My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness. My feelings about this volume are similar to my feelings on the last couple, good points, good honesty, uniquely rough art, but also feeling a bit redundant without the heavy hit of that original volume. Tough to know if the original book was alter in the series if it too would feel less, as if it simply hit harder as the first and being so shockingly different. However, as the later volumes have focused more on Nagata's health, alcoholism, and some of her mental health, it doesn't feel as taboo as the first volume's subject matter. Additionally, I really wish she'd go deeper into her relationship with her mother, that looms over everything. Worth a read, but certainly don't expect the intensity of the very first book.

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Please legitimately purchase or borrow manga and anime. Never read scanlations or watch fansubs. Those rob the creators of the income they need to survive and reduce the chance of manga and anime being legitimately released in English.

All comments are moderated by a real person who only checks them once a day. Therefore, comments may take a while before they show up. Thanks for understanding. It's how we keep this a community of lovingkindness.

Saturday, November 4, 2023

Skip and Loafer (anime season 1 review)

a highschool girl and boy
    I'll make this quick, I highly recommend "Skip and Loafer" season 1 (let's hope there will be more seasons to follow). It's exactly what you want from a light, but emotionally meaningful, shoujo high-school romance.
    It centers on Mitsumi, who grew up in a small isolated town and heads to Tokyo for high-school with the dream of becoming a politician and returning to her town to help revitalize it. She's everything you want in a shoujo heroine: spunky, earnest, occasionally clumsy, determined, and imminently likeable. She brings people together and she opens people up.
    But in many ways, this first season sees the development of Sousuke, whom one can only presume will be the love interest. He is a former child actor who has some trauma in his past and is trying to lead a normal life, keeping his secrets, and not being his authentic self. 
    Naturally, his time with Mitsumi begins to open up his sense of self worth and we see the first glimmers of their romantic interest blooming. Due to his interactions with her, he begins to push back against old narratives and reclaim pieces of himself. 
    The show is sweet, funny, and earnest. It isn't a deeply psychological show like Kare Kano or Ao Haru Ride, but does have enough emotional depth to balance the light-hearted moments. 
    I particularly loved Mitsumi's voice actress. The animation was also completely fine. Not necessarily anything special, but decent enough quality. 
    Basically, if you like shoujo high-school romance and want something on the lighter but still emotionally meaningful side of things, this is a really enjoyable show. I definitely recommend it. (Currently available on Crunchyroll)

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Please legitimately purchase or borrow manga and anime. Never read scanlations or watch fansubs. Those rob the creators of the income they need to survive and reduce the chance of manga and anime being legitimately released in English.

All comments are moderated by a real person who only checks them once a day. Therefore, comments may take a while before they show up. Thanks for understanding. It's how we keep this a community of lovingkindness.

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Sound proof Drum Isolation Booth in my basement!

    So aside from my day job in special education, and my love of anime and manga (and art, and books, etc...) I used to be a recording engineer/producer. I recently took up drums as a way to keep myself in music. So naturally, I needed to build a soundproof drum room in my basement. Here's a blog post detailing the basics. Perhaps most important is the air handling system I designed (and which is working great in practice).

    I originally designed the room with some added sound proofing features (such as using rockwool) but had to cut some costs when the total materials cost came in (I do all the construction myself). So I ended up with pink fiberglass instead. But after doing much research, it turns out rockwool doesn't make quite as much difference as people say.

    The basic construction including the room having an air gap between the outside foundation walls and the drum room walls. Then there were two layers of drywall on the outside of the wall, pink fiberglass insulation, and two more layers of drywall. For the soffits around the existing HVAC duct work, I did four layers of drywall on the inside of the room, then the insulation, but no drywall on the other side of the soffit. For the ceiling, given the low height of the basement, I went with pink fiberglass between the ceiling joists (first floor floor joists), then a layer of 5/8 OSB, then 2 layers of drywall. Might not seem like much, but that extra half inch of ceiling height helps, especially with the reflection foam on the ceiling after that (remember folks, the wall foam is not sound proofing, it is to limit reflections!).

    The floor plates for the walls were pressure treated in case of moisture from the floor. I kept the cement floor of the basement and just put area rugs instead of a finished floor. Cement slab floors don't transmit sound, so there was no need to build a floating floor and given the low ceiling height, this helped a lot. The floor plates also were caulked under the pressure treated wood, and along each edge, inside and out, to prevent any unevenness in the floor or board from creating a sound gap.

    The door is an exterior steel door with internal insulation. This has good weather stripping for sound, and is better than a wooden door for sound isolation. The challenge was that I had to cut it down due to the low ceiling height. I cut down the bottom edge, reinforced it with additional wood insert, filed down the rough steel edge, and it worked perfectly! 

Here are some random construction pics:

Love google sketchup, I still use the old free one.

Framing, notice on the left, there is an alcove to get access to the central stack snake port (lower left corner)


Insulation and starting drywall.

Cut down the steel door. Then replaced the blocking at the bottom, then glued it all tight and clamped it. After this, I filed down the rough steel edge and primed. Worked perfect.



    But now to the fun part! You can't have a soundproof room, with all the joints caulked, and weather proofed steel doors, without ventilation. You'll roast in there! BUT, if you just run the regular ventilation from the house HVAC system into the room, the sound of the drums (or whatever) will just travel through the vents into the rest of the house, which means you might as well not have even built the room.

    The solution is to build a ventilation system that is NOT connected to the house, but makes use of the fact that the room is in the basement. Basically, I built two baffled duct systems, one with an intake fan, and one with an output fan. The intake fan is located at the front bottom of the room, it draws in cool air from the basement floor. The output fan is located near the ceiling of the drum room, and pulls hot air (which rises) out of the room and spits it back out into the basement. You thus have cool air coming in, warm air going out, and none of this is connected to the house HVAC system. Below I will detail how I built these as well as some acoustic measurements I did showing the sound isolation properties of the baffled vent system.

    The basic premise is to have the sound from the room travel through a twisting and turning path (each right angle slows the sound down, and slow sound is quieter sound). The path should also be absorptive. I went with foam at first and not soft insulation or fabric because I didn't want dust build-up, however, it wasn't quite enough, so when I added a ribbed duct, I added pink insulation in any gaps. So the sound actually goes through the duct, but there's plenty of absorptive material as well. I made the decision to add the duct and foam after doing acoustical tests. You'll see those below too. 

    And then it's also important that your fans don't add noise. The fans were the fun part. I basically bought two 8" super quiet computer case fans, connected them to a cheap 12 volt power adapter, and put that into a switched wall outlet to turn them on and off.

    Lastly, you need to get audio and in and out of the room if you want to record. So I did a multi elbowed PVC conduit into and out of the room, the ends stuffed with foam. It has multiple curves, because each change in direction of sound decreases speed which decreases volume. Works perfect.

Here are pictures with descriptions:


Plywood frame. The box jutting out on the lower left is what will go through the wall into the drum room and have a wall grate placed overtop. The round hole on the bottom right is for the fan.


Here it is with the first layer of foam. 


Added a rigid and ribbed duct with extra pink foam in the gaps after doing acoustical analysis and finding that the hard foam cavity on it's own wasn't enough. Now there's more insulation for the outside, and the ribbed nature of the duct further disrupts and slows the sound.


Here's an early test mounting without the fan for acoustical tests. You can see the test mics laying on top of it.


Here are the two mounted. The bottom one is the cold air intake, the top one in the back is the warm air output from the booth


Side view

Lots to unpack with this one, these are the acoustic measurements with no baffle (just an opening from the drum room into the basement (approx 8"x10"), with the baffle (but without any duct in it), and with the baffle with the duct. The mics were in two positions. "On axis" means directly in front of the opening from the drum room into the basement. "Fan opening" means in front of the part of the baffle where the fan would be (the in/out side of the baffle). For the one with no baffle, I left the mic in the place it would be had the baffle been mounted. Omni directional measurement mics were used. 

As you can see, starting with the on-axis (top row), we get typical white noise profile with no baffle, the mic is simply picking it up straight from the speaker. With the baffle (but no duct in the baffle) we get significant high end and mid-range attenuation (YAY!) but the low end is still not great. Once we add the vent with the added pink foam (top, far right), the low end drops as well. This is because there is more between the mic and the inside of the baffle. The sound goes through the side wall of the metal duct, then pink foam, the rigid foam, then the plywood (instead of just the rigid foam and plywood).

The bottom row is at the fan side. You can see from the left bottom, that high end is a bit attenuated as you would expect since the speaker is in the drum room, projecting out the vent opening, and is perpendicular to the mic placement. The middle bottom shows that with the baffle (with no duct) there is the expected additional high end/mid attenuation. And the bottom right shows the additional modest low end attenuation with the duct and pink foam added. 

All in all, with the baffle, duct, and two types of insulation, we're getting upwards of 20 db attenuation at some frequencies, and at least modest attenuation at the low frequencies (the hardest to cut down). In practice, when walking around the drum room while someone was playing, I was blown away by just how quiet the sound leakage was from these vent systems. Worked better than I hoped.

For fun, I did the same tests using music (Thanks vintage Paramore!):


You can basically see all the same stuff as before. Highs and mids are dramatically cut from the no baffle tests (on the far left). Lows are still hard to cut down, but there's at least some drop.

Here's the audio conduit using PVC:





Here are some pics of the finished room. Enjoy!

You can see one soffit around an existing HVAC line. You can also see the hot air outtake vent in the upper right corner of the picture. There are power outlets on the three walls without the door.



Picture from the door, looking in.




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Please legitimately purchase or borrow manga and anime. Never read scanlations or watch fansubs. Those rob the creators of the income they need to survive and reduce the chance of manga and anime being legitimately released in English.

All comments are moderated by a real person who only checks them once a day. Therefore, comments may take a while before they show up. Thanks for understanding. It's how we keep this a community of lovingkindness.