Friday, December 04, 2009

Randy Johnson's 300th Win Part V: The Game

After 18,000 words in four days, we finally get to the main event: Randy Johnson's 300th win. I apologize for boring you with so much excess detail in Parts I-IV, but I feel that it helps to set up the actual game. Besides, the only people that will actually read this thing are my sister and me. (You can prove me wrong by leaving a comment. You can make it as nasty as you want.) Anyways, a note to all of the #nintendo people who probably won't read this: The title wasn't deliberate, but I did notice it when I was getting ready to write it. And I have just one thing to say about it: ha ha!

Or the Complete Story of How I Got to See One of the Greatest Milestones in the History of the Game

Part I: The Introduction
Part II: The Player
Part III: The Set-Up
Part IV: The Rainout
Part V: The Game
Part VI: The Aftermath (Coming sometime June 4, 2010 because I'm a lazy bum)

Or The Game Where Randy Johnson Becomes the 24th Player to Reach 300 Wins

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Randy Johnson's 300th Win Part IV: The Rainout

Welcome to Part IV of the six-part series looking back at Randy Johnson's 300th win. This part will detail the events of June 3, 2009, the scheduled date of Randy Johnson's first attempt at 300 wins, and what happened that eventually pushed the date of the milestone back to June 4. After writing 16,000 words in three days, I will try to make this entry more lightweight, but I can't make any guarantees.

Or the Complete Story of How I Got to See One of the Greatest Milestones in the History of the Game

Part I: The Introduction
Part II: The Player
Part III: The Set-Up
Part IV: The Rainout
Part V: The Game (Coming December 4)
Part VI: The Aftermath (Coming sometime in December)

Or The Events of the Day of the Rainout, and Meditations While Waiting Out a Rain Delay.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Randy Johnson's 300th Win Part III: The Set-Up

This is part III out of VI in my look back at one of the most significant events in my career as a baseball fan: seeing Randy Johnson win the 300th game of his career. Parts I and II were about 300-game winners, and the man who would be a 300-game winner, Randy Johnson. Part III is how I became interested in 300 wins, and the plans I made leading up to Randy's 300th win.

Or the Complete Story of How I Got to See One of the Greatest Milestones in the History of the Game

Part I: The Introduction
Part II: The Player
Part III: The Set-Up
Part IV: The Rainout (Coming December 3)
Part V: The Game (Coming December 4)
Part VI: The Aftermath (Coming sometime in December)

Or A Personal History of My Fascination with 300 Wins, and How I Made Plans to See 300 Game Winners Pitch.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Randy Johnson's 300th Win Part II: The Player

This is part II out of VI in my look back at one of the most significant events in my career as a baseball fan: seeing Randy Johnson win the 300th game of his career. Part I, in case you missed it, was both a defense and a history of the 300 win milestone. Part II will be about the man who would become the 24th pitcher to win 300 games.

Or the Complete Story of How I Got to See One of the Greatest Milestones in the History of the Game

Part I: The Introduction
Part II: The Player
Part III: The Set-Up (Coming December 2)
Part IV: The Rainout (Coming December 3)
Part V: The Game (Coming December 4)
Part VI: The Aftermath (Coming sometime in December)

Or The Man Who Would Become the 24th Pitcher to Win 300 Games

Monday, November 30, 2009

Randy Johnson's 300th Win Part I: The Introduction

Yeah...I probably should have written this shortly after the game, when I didn't have a lot of responsibilities, instead of having to cram it all into one short week in the middle of cardio just to make it in time for the 6-month anniversary of the most seminal event in my career as a baseball fan, but that's procrastination for you.

And rather than write a 20,000-word article to be posted all at once, I'll do it like how the newspapers do it, writing out six articles in six days, culminating with the 300th win game on December 4, the 6-month anniversary of the milestone.

Or the Complete Story of How I Got to See One of the Greatest Milestones in the History of the Game

Part I: The Introduction (November 30)
Part II: The Player (December 1)
Part III: The Set-Up (December 2)
Part IV: The Rainout (December 3)
Part V: The Game (December 4)
Part VI: The Aftermath (December 5)

or A Defense and a History of the 300-win Milestone

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The Heart-Melters #1 - Misty

We have finally come to the end of the journey through the Heart-Melters Gallery, almost a year after I first posted the entry about Kiki, the #10 Heart-Melter. Of course, it has been about six months since I posted my last entry, about Elizabeth Patterson, but then again it is only appropriate. After all, today is September 4, 2009, and it was ten years ago today that I first took a look at the #1 Heart-Melter and felt my heart melting at the sight of her. Over the years, nine others have come and joined the ranks of Heart-Melter, and several more have come close, but this Heart-Melter has remained a constant presence. So perhaps it is fitting that the first Heart-Melter chronologically is also number one in terms of strength. We will be able to conclude with the one who is concurrently the earliest and most recent Heart-Melter.

And for all of you who don't know what a Heart-Melter is, a Heart-Melter is basically a fictional female character from a video game, movie, cartoon, or a comic that I've been strongly attracted towards, or to put it in other words...melted my heart.

The Heart-Melters, #10-#2 in terms of overall strength (a combination of strength of attraction, duration of attraction, and recurrence of attraction)
#10: Kiki
#9: Tomo Takino
#8: Mona
#7: Buttercup
#6: Sheena Fujibayashi
#5: Kaho
#4: Shiori Fujisaki
#3: Seung Mina
#2: Elizabeth Patterson

And now we've come to #1.

Who is it? Well, if you have to ask, you probably don't know me well enough.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Heart-Melters #2 - Elizabeth Patterson


Who is she?
Elizabeth Patterson is the middle child of John and Elly Patterson, and therefore one of the main characters in the epic comic strip For Better or for Worse. She was born in June of 1981, a full five years younger than her elder brother Michael. While Elizabeth was generally a nice girl, the age difference between her and her brother led to some major growing pains. She is extremely sensitive, somewhat insecure, and had a major inferiority complex. She sucked her thumb until she turned nine years old, and got glasses at the age of eight, which she took very hard. She had trouble finding new friends, and was jealous whenever she felt like she was being ignored. As a result she often felt extremely lonely. Elizabeth was not a very good student in school. She never got in trouble, but she had some trouble following instructions and hated studying. However, her seventh grade teacher, Miss Sharon Edwards, took the young Elizabeth under her wing and helped her overcome these insecurities. This special bond gave Elizabeth a new sense of direction, and strongly influenced her decision to get into teaching. After graduating from Nipissing University, Elizabeth taught for a while in the town of Mtigwaki in Northern Canada before settling back home in Ontario. Yet her love life was not quite as successful as her career. After a long high school romance with Anthony Caine, she had a series of unsuccessful relationships before going in a full circle and married Anthony to become Elizabeth Caine.

Elizabeth Patterson's Influence (July 5, 2004 - January 2005)
If Elizabeth's love life was rocky, mine was virtually non-existent between my late high school and early college years. There were no classmates that really struck my fancy between the end of 2002 and the middle of 2004, and there were only two Heart-Melters during that time period, Kiki and Mona - the two lowest ranking Heart-Melters in terms of strength. Oh, there was a slight revival of an earlier age, but that's a story for another time. At any rate, I spent most of this time period preparing to bid farewell to high school, adjusting to life at college, and updating the list of the 100 best Nintendo 64 games. There was no need for a romantic interest. Elizabeth Patterson would change all of that.

My first year at UVA eventually ended, and the summer of 2004 rolled around. My cousin was getting married in Michigan on July 4 that year, and my family and I were taking a trip up north to celebrate it. The drive to Michigan takes about 10-12 hours, and to pass the time I brought along a lot of Garfield books. And once we got to Michigan we began devouring Calvin and Hobbes. When my aunt saw us reading so many comics, she let us read her collection of her favorite comic: For Better or for Worse. I had read For Better or for Worse in the newspapers previously, but I really can't say that I was a fan. Nevertheless, when we went to Cedar Point the day after the wedding, we brought along three of the For Better or for Worse books: Starting from Scratch, Love just Screws Everything Up, and Growing Like a Weed. I read the books on the trip there, and as we entered Ohio, I found myself getting attracted to Elizabeth. For Better or for Worse is well known for the realism of its characters due to the real-time aging aspect, and I found myself getting drawn into the complexity of her character. Plus, she was very pretty. It had been a while since I felt that level of an attraction towards somebody, but it was unmistakably there.

The Age of Elizabeth Patterson
It is said that For Better or for Worse is the comic that everybody loves; they either love it, or they love to hate it. Thanks to Elizabeth Patterson, I was a part of the former group. I pretty much always had a For Better or for Worse book with me during the rest of my time at Cedar Point and during the trip to northern Michigan, and she never left my thoughts. The attraction became so strong that I was starting to feel the burning sensation that I had felt before my three previous crushes, although it passed by quickly and I didn't make much of it. My aunt saw how much I was into For Better or for Worse, and she let us borrow all of her For Better or for Worse books once we left Michigan. This allowed the Age to extend far beyond the summer. My mind couldn't leave Elizabeth back at home. I wrote about her on the NSider message boards, and I even began to title each of my posts on the board "Postcount + 1! This Post is Dedicated to the Lovely Elizabeth Patterson." I purchased a mousepad and a T-shirt from the For Better or for Worse online store. (I was wearing the shirt during a post-Gamers dinner when J Ford talked about his hatred of the strip. Apparently he's part of the latter group.) Late in the summer, I decided flipping through the books was a bit of a bother, so I decided to scan my aunt's For Better or for Worse books just so I can have some of the better Elizabeth comics at easy access. I eventually went out of control and just scanned any For Better or for Worse comic I thought was good and ended up with 543 files that took up 35.4 MB of hard drive space. The habit of acquiring pics of Heart-Melters continues. I went back to college in August and acquired a marker board for my door in my dorm. The first thing I wrote on it was "Elizabeth Patterson," which confused everybody in my hall.

Yet all good things must come to an end. I found a project during the fall semester that diverted my attention from Elizabeth Patterson: The Top 100 Nintendo 64 Games threads. I had been keeping tabs on a top 100 Nintendo 64 Games list since the spring of 2003, and that fall I concentrated all of my attention on writing about each of the games. I researched games. I scanned boxes. I captured game footage. I transferred them to pictures. When I finished the list after a series of all-nighters in January of 2005, the Age of Elizabeth Patterson had dissipated. The list is definitely one of the causes of the end of the attraction, although it is far from being the sole cause. Lynn Johnston's character design had changed dramatically over the years. By late 2004, she was doing things like emphasizing the lips of her characters, and I can't say I was a big fan of these changes. Furthermore, the Patterson family was all over the place by 2004. The story would spend a week or so with one character before hurrying off to another. The storyline felt incomplete as a result, and the characters lost much of their depth, including Elizabeth. I continued to read the strip loyally until the end, but my feelings for Elizabeth was no longer there.

Strength: 2 - All of the Heart-Melters had dominated my thoughts to some degree, but only one of them had ended up being an actual crush. Elizabeth Patterson was close to being the second, and even though the crush never materialized, my feelings for her were extremely intense.

Duration: 2 - The attraction began in the summer of 2004 and lasted all the way into the winter of 2005. It's hard to find six months to be very impressive considering the length of the #1 Heart-Melter is about six times that amount, but it's important to consider the fact that the original period of attraction for the #1 Heart-Melter only lasted for about that long.

Recurrence: 5 - This was where Elizabeth Patterson falters. My attention towards her went on the backburners when I began to focus on writing about the top 100 Nintendo 64 games, and as a result my attraction towards her became secondary as well. By January it was completely snuffed out, and I never looked back. Nevertheless, she still ranks ahead of some other powerhouses like Shiori Fujisaki and Kaho because even though all three of them remained my favorite characters in their respective source materials, I still read For Better or for Worse quite regularly.

Overall: 9 - Even though I don't have a lot of feelings for Elizabeth now, it's hard to ignore how much a force she was back in the day. Not only were my attractions towards her extremely strong, but it endured for an extraordinarily long period of time. This rare combination is enough to overcome a relatively low recurrence score, but to be honest the recurrence score isn't that bad. It's still in the top half.

Next Up: The Tomboyish Mermaid

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Heart-Melters #3 - Seung Mina


Who is she?
Soul Calibur is perhaps one of the more historically inaccurate game set in a historical time period, but that's probably because Namco only came up with the individual storylines as a secondary thing to complement its deep fighting gameplay. Seung Mina (now known as Seong Mi-na) was one of the characters that came over from the prequel, Soul Blade. She was the 19-year-old daughter of Seung Han Myong, one of the greatest teachers of martial arts in Korea. Under her father's guidance, Seung Mina becomes well-trained in martial arts. With her Zamba-toh in hand, Seung Mina left to track down the Soul Edge, which she believes just may save Korea. Yet instead of finding the Soul Edge, her suitor Hwang Seung Gyung found her instead and brought her back home. When Seung Mina runs away again, she fights a mysterious enemy (then-Soul series newbie Ivy) and loses badly. Ashamed, she ends up training under a new master and learns a new set of fighting moves (similar to Kilik, another person in the Soul realm). After many years of fighting and other events in Soul Calibur sequels I rarely played, she came to realize that the Soul Edge was an evil sword, and played the role Hwang once played with another, newer character.

Seung Mina's Influence (July 2001 - Winter 2001)
My love life was in a bit of a turmoil between February 2000 and July 2001. During those 17 months, I was largely obsessing over a memory while getting somewhat attracted to most of my real-life classmates and then doing nothing about it. Perhaps it was a period of tremendous opportunity, but I saw it as a rather lackluster period. (The 22 months between the beginning of the Heart-Melter Era and the beginning of the Age of Seung Mina is the second longest period between new Heart-Melters. Interestingly enough, the longest period is the 28 months between the beginning of the Age of Tomo and now.) Anyways, the period soon came to an end thanks to my sister.

My sister had always been a fan of fighting games. She purchased a Dreamcast in early 2001 (for The Typing of the Dead), but quickly realized she'd be able to enjoy games like Shenmue and of course...Soul Calibur. She received the game as a birthday present in July of 2001. I feel that Soul Calibur is starting to gain a reputation of having sexy, busty female characters to go along with its deep fighting system, but all I knew about the game back then was that it received perfect scores from virtually every publication one can think of: IGN, Gamespot, Famitsu, EGM etc. Of course, I learned really early on that it had cute females. I took a liking to Xianghua (as opposed to fan favorites Taki and Ivy), even if she didn't look like somebody from Ming China. However, I remembered that the IGN reviewer for Soul Calibur had praised Seung Mina countless times in his review. I was curious as to what was so great about her, but I hadn't started using Google Images, so I did not find out what Seung Mina looked like until I had unlocked her. However, I was instantly blown away by her gentle features and silky smile. I hadn't come up with the idea of Heart-Melters in 2001, but I knew at the time Seung Mina was something special.

The Age of Seung Mina
Once I unlocked Seung Mina, she became the only thing that I really cared for in Soul Calibur. Sure, Seung Mina never really took over my thoughts like some of the other Heart-Melters had, but for a lonely and desperate 16-year-old that was more attracted to fictional characters than real ones, Seung Mina was as good as it gets. Seung Mina may be a lower ranked character in the Soul Calibur hiearchy, but I liked playing as her nonetheless. I did so originally because she was so cute, and I liked playing just to see her, but the more I played, the better I became at using her. Sure, it's just another example of practice makes perfect, but I achieved my fastest Arcade time using Seung Mina (I remember it was below 3:30) and I used her on the difficult challenges in Mission Mode. I even unlocked everything in the Art Gallery just for pictures of Seung Mina. Unfortunately, there weren't too many of those. (Heck, the Soul Calibur Wiki has a Seung Mina picture from Soul Calibur that I've never seen previously.)

And in the end, Seung Mina was not strong enough to overcome the natural force of change. While I ended up playing Soul Calibur more often than my sister (she didn't have anything to draw her back to the game like I did), it still didn't erase the fact that I was not really a fan of fighters, especially ones that relied on life bars of certain sort. The release of the Gamecube in December of 2001 led to the phasing out of the Dreamcast, and I eventually found myself playing Super Smash Bros. Melee, a fighting game that was more my style. My attraction to Seung Mina was largely tied to the game, and my attraction to her eventually faded by the winter of 2001-2002.

However, while Seung Mina may no longer be at Heart-Melter status, her role as the second Heart-Melter chronologically still makes her quite significant. While I rarely think about the other Heart-Melters after my attraction towards them faded, I still go back to Seung Mina quite often. I still check out pictures of Seung Mina whenever a new Soul Calibur game is released, but I usually end up getting disappointed. Her concept art portraits have been quite cute, but her in-game renders usually leave more to be desired. Ironically, it was it was her in-game beauty that really endeared me to her in the first Soul Calibur game. Needless to say, I didn't play much Soul Calibur II and was never really interested in III and IV. And since it was the first Soul Calibur game that made Seung Mina a Heart-Melter, I'll continue to spell her name the way it was spelled in the first game rather than use the updated spelling in III and IV. I am stubborn like that.

Strength: 5 - Seung Mina may have been the person that jolted me out of a period of attraction towards real females (and started a string of seven Heart-Melters in three short years), but now that I think of it, I didn't really fawn over her as I did over Kaho and Shiori. Sure, I played Soul Calibur a lot more than I would have if I wasn't attracted to Seung Mina, but I didn't obsessively hoard pictures of her or dream about her at nights.

Duration: 4 - The Age of Seung Mina lasted from late July 2001, when I first unlocked her, to around December of 2001, a period of between four and five months. That may not be a very long time, especially now that I'm 24 years old, but the median length of Heart-Melters Ages is three and a half to four months. It sure feels a lot longer in the middle of an Age.

Recurrence: 2 - This is where Seung Mina shines as a Heart-Melter. She may not have had the strongest Age, but I can't quite forget her. I was still eager for new pictures of her even years after she lot the status as a Heart-Melter. In fact, I first found Shiori Fujisaki when I was trying to look for pictures of Seung Mina in April of 2002, a full four months after the end of the Age. I've had somebody comment that my #1 Heart-Melter would become upset by my "two-timing" after posting a picture of Seung Mina on the UVA Gamers message board. This was June of 2008, six and a half years after the end of the Age. She may not have had a second Age like Mona, but Seung Mina's persistence after all these years is enough for earn her the #2 spot.

Overall: 11 - Seung Mina's rankings within the Heart-Melters Gallery has shifted over the year. My initial ranking back in 2005 was chronologically, and Seung Mina ended up in the #2 spot. My next attempt to rank them came in 2006, and that was by strength alone. Seung Mina fell to #3, ahead of even Shiori and Kaho. When I ranked by three qualifications last year, I kept Seung Mina at #3, but I also realized that what made her such a high-ranking Heart-Melter wasn't because my attraction towards her was terribly strong, but incredibly enduring.

Next Up: Lizardbreath

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Heart-Melters #4 - Shiori Fujisaki


Who is she?
Remember the dating sim, the genre popular in Asia that allows men to satisfy some of their fantasies; a genre that included Sister Princess? One of the most popular dating sims is known as Tokimeki Memorial. Tokimeki Memorial has now become a series due to its popularity, but the original Tokimeki Memorial had been a PC/PlayStation/Saturn game in the mid-1990s. The game tells the story of a guy that transferred to a high school in which his childhood sweetheart also attends. That childhood sweetheart is none other than Shiori Fujisaki. The epitome of brains and beauty, Shiori Fujisaki is a painfully attractive straight-A student, and the most popular girl in school. She's got everybody going after her, except you have the advantage because your history with her, but it's going to be a challenge if you want to take it to the next level. You're better off trying to woo the other girls.

Shiori's Influence (April 2002-Fall 2002)
I've known about Tokimeki Memorial since well before April of 2002, although source amnesia has erased all memories of what it could possibly be. I didn't know much about it, but I would soon find out more than I'd ever need to know. By April of 2002, the two other Heart-Melter Ages had come to a close, and I was back to dedicating my love life to a specter. I was trying to revive one of the Ages when I came across Tokimeki Memorial. Basically, I was searching online for pics and came across a German site known as GameBabes. The pics they had weren't anything I hadn't seen before, but I was intrigued, so I explored some of the other games they had. I noticed the title "Tokimeki Memorial," and because I've heard of it from somewhere, I decided to click the link. That was something that changed my life...for the next few months at least. I was introduced to some amazingly cute anime-style girls. I sat there admiring a few of the minor characters, but the ultimate treat came when I clicked on one of the four pages dedicated to Shiori Fujisaki. Actually, to be completely honest, Shiori Fujisaki did not initially stand out from a lot of the other Tokimeki Memorial girls. There were other cute girls vying for my attention...namely Yumi Saotome, Saki Nijino, and Ayako Katagiri. Yet in the end, Shiori's resemblance to the girl I thought I was in love with at the time finally won me over, and she became the crowning girl in Tokimeki Memorial.

The Age of Shiori Fujisaki
I suppose a more appropriate title for this would actually be "The Age of Tokimeki Memorial." Shiori Fujisaki may have been the central character among my interests, but she was not the only one. I did not dedicate all of my attention to a single girl. I had admired many of Shiori's friends as well. So when I went around saving pictures of the girls to satisfy my adolescent obsessions, I went across the scale and saved basically every Tokimeki Memorial pics that struck my fancy instead of pictures of only Shiori Fujisaki. Tokimeki Memorial was a dating sim, and since dating sims were built around images, it wasn't difficult for me to find a lot of great pictures. Within a month, I had saved almost 600 pics of the girls in Tokimeki Memorial. All this picture-saving probably is a little bit odd...but I've always been about seeing more of an individual I found attractive, even when the person was real. With people like Buttercup and Tomo, I satisfied my desires just by watching the shows over and over again. Tokimeki Memorial is a game I probably couldn't understand even if I was able to import it, so the only thing I can do is to save pictures.

Anyways, in late spring of 2002 (around the time I injured my knee pretty badly), I was as you can say...obsessed with Tokimeki Memorial. Shiori and her friends soon invaded my life in various ways. I selected a couple of extremely cute pics and compiled them into a collage, which I printed out and laminated to be able to look at Shiori and friends all day during class. I named my C++ variables in Computer Science class after various Tokimeki Memorial characters. It was truly something that dominated my thoughts. Yet this particular Age was somewhat short-lived compared to the Heart-Melter Ages that came earlier. One thing that really crippled my admiration of Shiori Fujisaki and friends and (and potentially kept it from becoming a crush) is the Age of Buttercup (or my obsession with the Powerpuff Girls). With two concurrent ages, the one that would come out on top is the one I have more access too. So even though Tokimeki Memorial dominated my thoughts, if only for a short period of time, the only connection I had towards it was the 600 or so pictures I had, so my affections slowly faded away.

I went to Taiwan during the summer of 2002, and I found a Chinese copy of Tokimeki Memorial at a bookstore when I was there. There was no mistaking Shiori Fujisaki or Miharu Tatebayashi, both of whom appeared on the box. Better yet, the game had Chinese text, so I'd actually be able to understand it! I eagerly convinced my mom to buy it for me. I played it as soon as I could when I got back the United States...but as you might expect, the game wasn't exactly what I had expected. First of all, it was a really old copy of the game. I was only able to install it on only one of my computers. And more importantly, the game itself was disappointing. It was perhaps 50 times shorter than the Japanese versions I had heard so much about. The game ends when you go on four dates. How can you win the love of anybody with only four dates? And you know what? The character you play as is a pervert! I mean, in one scene, he manages to secure a date with Shiori (or it may have been Saki), but as soon as he saw somebody with a revealing's nosebleed time! When you're on a date with somebody as attractive as Shiori or Saki, you'd best be focusing your attention on that person. The game sealed the coffin for the Age of Shiori Fujisaki. I went and deleted almost all of my pics, keeping only about 50 to remind myself of the weird and wonderful season, but all that's left for Shiori is a permanent spot within the Heart-Melters Gallery.

Strength: 4 - Shiori ranks high in this category since I was so obsessed with Tokimeki Memorial. In fact, I originally had her at the #3 spot ahead of Kaho, since my attraction towards Tokimeki Memorial was a lot stronger than my attraction towards Sister Princess. But then there's the question of force and pressure (force / area.) I was less obsessed with Sister Princess, but most of it was focused on one person: Kaho. I was more obsessed with Tokimeki Memorial, but my attention was spread out among many. So in the end I decided that my attraction towards Kaho was stronger than my attraction towards Shiori. After all, my sister told me that she thought I liked Yumi Saotome more. She never did that with Kaho. Still, a #4 rank is nothing to scoff at.

Duration: 5 - The incident with the game that ended the Age came in August of 2002, just short of four months after the Age first began. At the time I thought it was quite short, but now that I look at it, three and a half months is longer than more than half of the other Heart-Melter Ages.

Recurrence: 6 - Shiori remains my favorite girl in Tokimeki Memorial, and if I ever get a real version of the game I'd definitely go for her. However, my attraction towards the series is pretty dead. I have less than 10% of the pictures I originally had, and I rarely ever look at them. The chance of a recurrence is there, but it hasn't happened yet.

Overall: 15 - Shiori's stock has gone down since I started revisiting the Heart-Melters. In the past she used to be closer to the #3 spot, while now she's barely ahead of Kaho, the #5 spot. In fact, if I count the Strength category twice, which I've thought about doing at times, she'd be tied with Kaho. Nevertheless, Shiori is definitely one of the Heart-Melter Elites, and I think her #4 ranking can attest to that.

Next Up: The Heart and Soul Girl

Monday, March 02, 2009

The Heart-Melters #5 - Kaho


Who is she?
Although the genre is virtually non-existent in America, the dating sim is one of the most popular genres in Asia. Apparently there are a heck of a lot of desperate men willing to spend money to buy games dedicated to cute, anime-style girls. The dating sims range from mild, G-rated fantasies to sexually explicit packages designed to supply the real deal. Sister Princess is a dating sim that would be on the innocent side of the smut spectrum IF...IF it was not filled with incestuous innuendo. The general plot is that there are 12 sisters madly in love with their brother. It's not just the love one would naturally have for their family member. No. It's more than that. They WANT TO MARRY THEIR BROTHER! I've heard of brotherly love, but this is ridiculous! Kaho-chan is one of these 12 sisters, and she may be the second youngest. She's a lovable soul with a bubbly personality and a never-say-die approach to life. She's extremely clumsy and has nary a sense of balance. She trips on almost everything, but usually just laughs it off with one of her heart-melting giggles. She's just so innocently adorable. Oh yeah. Kaho is a cheerleader. Not a very good one, but cute.

Kaho's Influence (February 20, 2005-May 2005)
The story of Kaho's path to the Heart-Melters Gallery begins not long after Katsucon 10 in 2004. During that time, I was driven to compile a list of the 100 cutest anime girls in Word document known as Useless.doc. I'd go around to websites looking up different anime and judging the girls I see in cuteness before ranking them in my list. I should have known that this list would turn out to be useless, since list is just like any other list I tried compiling: I lost interest before I completed it. I managed to include 111 girls, although looking back, I can think of loads of changes I'd make. Maybe Misao shouldn't rank so high (6th.) Perhaps Faye Valentine is a bit too low (somewhere after 50.) However, what really killed the list was a particular anime known as Sister Princess. All 12 of the other sisters were amazingly cute. By the time I finished including all of the sisters, 10 of the 12 were on the list. Topping the list was a sister named Kaho. Yet I didn't feel it was right. I didn't even know Sister Princess existed only 30 minutes earlier, and now here comes all of the cute girls and they dominate (screw up) my list. It wasn't even a good anime. Most reviewers found it to be abysmal at best. And worst of all, the two people I found the cutest were the two youngest! (Their innocence really got to me.) I abandoned the project shortly afterwards

Fast forward to Katsucon 11 in 2005. It had been over a year since the anime convention that drove me to begin the useless list. Two things caught my eye while perusing the program: One is that they're showing The Cat Returns on Saturday at 6. (Disney refused to let them show it subbed). The other is that Sister Princess is being shown on Sunday at 12. I remembered Sister Princess as the anime full of cute girls that had disrupted my list. Yet I became rather intrigued. Was the show really as bad as people said, and are the girls really as cute as the pictures had suggested? On Sunday, I didn't make it into the video room until past halfway through the first episode because I was busy playing Mario Kart: Double Dash. The first girl I saw was pretty cute. I was thinking, "Man, that person is cute. I wonder where she had ranked on my list." Little did I know that she was Kaho, the apex of all Sister Princess sisters in cuteness! By the time my mind had clicked, I was already quite attracted to the adorable cheerleader wannabe in a green sweater and pleated skirt. (And in case you were wondering, the show is as bad as the review sites suggested. It was virtually incomprehensible. But the girls are cute all right...real cute!)

The Age of Kaho
Kaho-chan may be one of the youngest sisters, but even then she may actually be 11 - about the same age as the tomboyish Mamoru. After I had gone back to my dorm following Katsucon 11, I began to think about Sister Princess, especially about Kaho. I knew this was something special, something like what happened with Misty in 1999, Shiori Fujisaki in 2002, and Elizabeth Patterson in 2004. In fact, I realized all of these attractions were strong enough to warrant their own title: the Heart-Melters. (I wrote the original Heart-Melters Gallery thread during the weekend of February 26, 2005 - less than a week after seeing Kaho at Katsucon.) Over the next few days, I began searching for Kaho pics on Google. Some of the ones I found were pretty blurry, but a lot of them were bloody cute, all of which justified her place as a Heart-Melter. Oh sure...her sisters are cute, but Kaho...Kaho...Kaho with her lovely smile and charming personality is definitely at the head of the pack. It was when making the list in 2004, and in the height of the Age of Kaho in 2005. Previously, when I was saving pictures of Heart-Melters, I saved numerous pictures of other characters, but in this case I was saving pictures of only Kaho. If that wasn't enough, I even got downgraded to a 56K connection by ITC while downloading episodes of the Sister Princess sequel Sister Princess RePure just to see Kaho. It was a worthy sacrifice...3/6 episodes were related to Kaho. (Kaho is obviously one of the most popular characters even in Japan.)

Yet as expected, the obsession with Kaho was only temporary. After watching all episodes of Sister Princess and every episode of Sister Princess Repure, I realized that there was nothing more to go for. The series weren't good enough to warrant a re-viewing, and none of the Sister Princess games were available in America. I was under pressure from more than one person to get over her, and I willingly relented. Even before summer vacation began in mid-May, I was saving pictures of her sister Yotsuba (not the cute but not heart-melting title character of the Kiyohiko Azuma classic Yotsuba&!) . I slowly stopped thinking about Kaho and began turning my mind back to the lovely AJN. By June, all of my previous admiration had faded away, and all that was left was a shell of a memory. I never did revive any attraction towards Kaho, but I kept all of the pictures as a sort of a memento to the short-lived bygone days. It's a reminder of the fact that even of people lose their status as Heart-Melters, they will always be in the Heart-Melters Gallery.

Strength: 3 - I don't often get so caught up in a Heart-Melter that I'd save their pictures incessantly, but Kaho is one exception. Not only did she dominate my thoughts for a period of time, but I also wasted a lot of bandwidth space on pictures of Kaho and only Kaho.

Duration: 6 - As I had discussed in the Tomo entry, the brightest stars usually die off the quickest. I've realized it doesn't really apply towards the Heart-Melters, because the correlation betwsen the Strength and Time rankings have been generally positive, but at just above three months, Kaho's time as a Heart-Melter had been relatively short.

Recurrence: 7 - Not only was Kaho's burn-out relatively swift, but it was also pretty complete. It seems that most Heart-Melters have a general "honeymoon" period that lasts two to three months, and if they want to continue as a Heart-Melter, they'd better offer something extra either in the form of a dazzling personality or a good source material. Kaho had neither. She was kind of shallow and Sister Princess sucked. So once Kaho's Heart-Melter status died off, I never had the urge to watch the show to revive the attraction. She's still my favorite sister, which beats some other Heart-Melters (like Tomo).

Overall: 16 - Because of Kaho's low recurrence score, she ended up with almost the same overall score as Sheena. This was quite surprising. I was far more obsessed with Kaho than Sheena, so I kind of expected it to be a lot higher than Sheena. (It shows you the flaws of compiling the overall score with a qualitative numeral figure like rank.) Either way, Kaho still finishes within the top half of the Heart-Melters Gallery!

Next Up: Forever With You

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Heart-Melters #6 - Sheena Fuijibayashi


Who is she?
Sheena Fujibayashi (known in Japan as Shihna or Shiina) is a character in Namco's epic RPG, Tales of Symphonia. She hails from the mysterious ninja village of Mizuho in Tethe'alla. As the granddaughter of the chief, she was trained from an early age to become a Summoner, but for her final exam she had to make a pact with Volt. The mission ended in a failure, and Volt killed off half of the village to punish their insolence, and her grandfather ended up in a coma. This spectacular failure had haunted her for the next several years until she befriended a Summon Spirit by the name of Corrine. With Corrine at her side, Sheena was slowly able to turn her life around. She was later hired by the king to murder Sylvarant's Chosen, Colette, to preserve Tethe'alla's prosperity. By then, Sheena had put the failure behind her and assumed a tough, no-nonsense personality, although there is still a tender side underneath. She had kept it up fairly well, but her insecurities began to resurface when she failed to accomplish her task. However, she joined forces with her former enemies and helped them achieve their goal of world regeneraton, making use of her perfected summoning skills. Sheena is also cursed by her attractive appearance. Most people tend to notice her body instead of her mind, especially the Chosen of Tethe'alla. Needless to say, the two don't get along too well. However, she does seem to have something for Lloyd, because he may be the first person outside of Mizuho to respect her as a human being.

Sheena's Influence (June 2006 - September 2006)
I must admit that I'm not much of an RPG fan. Sure, I like Pokemon Blue, but I've never been a major fan of RPG games, as I was not a major fan of leveling up. I don't remember when I had first heard of Tales of Symphonia, but one thing I do remember is that I wasn't really interested in it. I didn't get the game when it was released in the summer of 2004. While other people in the #nintendo chat room were talking about the game, I ignored them and talked about other things. Even though I had no interest in the game, my sister was very interested. She constantly listed Tales of Symphonia as one game she wanted to try out, but she never wanted to spend $20 to get the game. However, one of our gamer friends at college agreed to lend us a copy of ToS, and we started playing the game in late June 2006.

While my sister enjoyed the game, my initial reactions were not so positive. The real-time multiplayer battle system allowed me to join my sisters while playing, but I just couldn't get into the game. Playing the game just wasn't a very fun experience in the beginning, but the game started to appeal to me after playng it a few more times. Why? It wasn't because of the storyline, because I'm usually doing my own thing whenever a major cutscene happens. It wasn't because of the battles, because even though the battle system is nice, the repetitiveness of battles makes it extremely monotonous. My change of heart most likely came about because of the characters. ToS has pretty strong character development, and each of them slowly began to appeal to me, even the annoying Zelos (whom my sister despises.) Sheena quickly became my favorite for a variety of reasons. At any rate, she undoubtedly became a Heart-Melter by the end of the summer.

The Age of Sheena
There are many reasons why I like Sheena. I liked using her in battle, especially her balance between A-attacks and techs such as "Demon Seal" and "Life Seal." I like her no-nonsense personality; how she is tough yet tender. I like her looks, even if she looks as though she just rolled out of bed in the Z-cutscenes. I like her costumes, including how her bow floats due to Bernoulli's Principle as she runs along the world map. (I was a bit disappointed with her formal dress. I was hoping it would be more of an actual dress, but oh well.) I even like the voice acting by Jennifer Hale, even though I'm not normally a very fan of dubs. One thing I don't really like is that Sheena doesn't look too good in the actual official art. Nevertheless, Sheena is one of the biggest reasons why I quickly grew to enjoy ToS.

Unfortunately, this Age of Sheena couldn't have come at a worse time. Summer 2006 was supposed to be the season where I dedicated all of my time and energy into studying for the MCAT. (That turned out to be summer 2008.) I was fairly diligent early in the summer, but once I finished reviewing all the basic information, the only thing I could do was practice problems and more reviewing. I was a bit too lazy to do all of that. In the end I spent most of the summer doing practice problems in the morning, and so I can play as Sheena at nights. In the end my scores on practice tests dropped precariously until my real score was pretty terrible. And the worst thing is that in the end, I felt as though it was worth it.

Perhaps I spent so much time playing Tales of Symphonia because I didn't think I had much of a chance to play it much anymore. My sister and I were were back at college once the MCATs were over. We had our own copy of the game, but no system to play it on. My sister decided not to bring the Gamecube since we have another sister that may have wanted to play it. And yet even this predicament was only temporary. Two months into the school year, the friend who lent us ToS in the first place let us borrow her Gamecube. Nevertheless, considering most Heart-Melter ages last for two to four months, two months is an extremely long time to go without doing anything to prolong an age. I was able to extend the ages of some of the other Heart-Melters a large number of pictures that I was able to save, but most Sheena pictures I could find are official art. And as I said before, I'm not a fan of the official art. We eventually got the chance to play Tales of Symphonia to our hearts content in a few more playthroughs of the US GCN version plus the Japanese GCN and PS2 versions, but by then Sheena had lost the Heart-Melter status. She still made 2006 a summer to remember.

Strength: 6 - I never regarded Sheena as a very strong Heart-Melter, since there's a massive drop-off in this category from #5, but it was a stronger age than I remembered. I willingly played hours of Tales of Symphonia when I should have been studying for the MCAT, and continued to do so even well into 2009. And it was all for seeing Sheena. She was a special part of my life for a period of time, even if she never quite reached the level of obsession.

Duration: 7 - Sheena's prime period as a Heart-Melter started in late June and faded pretty quickly after going back to college, meaning it lasted pretty much only a summer, or in other words, just about two to three months. That's about the same length as Tomo, but Sheena has the advantage for one crucial reason, which follows.

Recurrence: 4 - Sheena may have never regained her status in the two and a half years following her period as a Heart-Melter, but I have certainly not lost any of my admiration towards her. I have continued to enjoy Tales of Symphonia just so I can play as Sheena, first in a second and third playthrough of the US version, and then in the Japanese Gamecube version and finally in the PS2 version (where unfortunately we haven't seen her yet.)

Overall: 17 - As I mentioned earlier, I never really took much notice of Sheena's Heart-Melter status when it was going on. The age fizzled up shortly after reaching college, and it was blocked by my later Azumanga obsession. But Sheena helped to turn a game that I can't say I really enjoyed into a major part of my gaming life. Seriously, I've never had as much discussion with my sisters regarding any other game than Tales of Symphonia. And it's all thanks to Sheena. Thank you, Sheena. We have to do something special for you. (Okay, I'm clearly quoting Super Mario 64 by now.) Putting her at the sixth rank is pretty darned special.

Next Up: A princess of a sister

The Heart-Melters #7 - Buttercup


Who is She?
Sugar! Spice! And everything nice! These were the ingredients chosen to create the perfect little girls! But Professor Utonium accidentally added an extra ingredient into the concoction: Chemical X! And thus the Powerpuff Girls were born! Using their ultra-super powers, Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup have dedicated their lives to fighing crime and the forces of EVIL! Yes. As you may have guessed (and feared for sake of my sanity), Buttercup is indeed the Powerpuff Girl. Created by Professor Utonium, Buttercup may not be the commander and leader (that title would have to go to Blossom), but she is the toughest fighter. She's highly no-nonsense, and loves nothing more than a good fight with a bad guy. Although her name comes up last, all signs point to her being the middle child. She had a rebellious side that often leads to friction with her friends and her families, especially her sisters. Yet despite her impulsiveness and attitude problem, she is not the Powerpuff Girl with a criminal record.

Buttercup's Influence (May 2002-Late 2002)
Back in the middle of 2002, I was quite obsessed with a dating sim called Tokimeki Memorial. It was an intense experience. Dating sims are all about the cute girls, and I used up a good 50MB of hard drive space just saving pictures of these cute girls. However, this isn't about Tokimeki Memorial. Rather, it's about the entity that broke up Tokimeki Memorial's stronghold in my life: The Powerpuff Girls. It makes sense, I suppose. The Powerpuff Girls are an American product, so it is much more accesible to somebody living in America. There would be no need to save 50MB worth of pictures to get my fill of the Powerpuff Girls, since all you have to do is tune into Cartoon Network. (However, I still eventually saved that many pictures.) Before May of 2002, I was admittedly somebody that did not understand the allure of the Powerpuff Girls. I saw Meat Fuzzy Lumpkins in 1997 and again in 1998 on the old What a Cartoon Show, and while it was amusing, I didn't think it was anything special. I had scoffed in February when I read that they were coming out with aPowerpuff Girls Movie. There was no way I could have imagine becoming a Powerpuff Girl fan by the end of the year. And yet, all that changed with the arrival of cable TV in my household. All of a sudden I had access to hundreds of channels that I was able to see only at a friend's house. One of the channels being Cartoon Network.

With Cartoon Network, I was finally able to watch the Powerpuff Girls TV show. I was flipping through channels when it came on, and I decided to stay and watch. The first episodes I saw were Collect Her and Supper Villain. They aren't exactly among the better episodes (although Supper Villain was well edited), but I was impressed enough with the show to watch it while waiting for the TV movie "Path to War" to begin. It was then that I saw the greatest of all Powerpuff Girls episodes: Moral Decay. Moral Decay is a classic. It had witty humor, a fun storyline, and a darned great montage. And of course, it had Buttercup in a great role, if not a little bit anti-heroic. In the episode, she falls in love with the power of money after earning her first dollar. When she finds out the legend of the tooth fairy, she became a personal but selfish campaign to rid the city of villains...and their teeth. Sure, it wasn't exactly the most flattering depiction of Buttercup, but after I saw that episode, I knew I was hooked on both the Powerpuff Girls and Buttercup. On June 1, 2002, the night before the ACT exam (which I did rather poorly on), I stayed up until past midnight watching a Powerpuff Girl marathon. It was intense, but I was happy because I got Moral Decay on tape. The Age of Buttercup had begun.

The Age of Buttercup
"The Age of the Powerpuff Girls" is probably a more appropriate name for this age, but Buttercup is undoubtedly the representative Heart-Melter. Sure, Blossom is cuter and more elegant, but it was Buttercup that melted my heart. Not only was she the main focus of Moral Decay (still my favorite episode), but I liked her tough, die-hard attitude. I seem to have a soft spot for people with a rougher edge. Most of the Heart-Melters I had up to the summer of 2002 fit that description. Anyways, thanks to my attraction to Buttercup, I became fascinated with the Powerpuff Girls. I had three video tapes of episodes, and later recorded three audio tapes, which I listened to while I was in China. There's nothing better than listening to the Powerpuff Girls while walking amongst the Terra-Cotta Warriors. Blossom and Buttercup became names of C++ variables in my Computer Science class, and the three Heroes of Time in my copy of Ocarina of Time were christened as Blossom, Bubbles, and Butercup. By the end of the summer of 2002, I was able to give a general recitation of up to five episodes.

My obsession with the Powerpuff Girls even led to a change in my internet habits. I was still a user of the UPNetwork forums. However, the rise of the Powerpuff Girls led me to other sites, and I eventually found myself at the PPGWorld forums. It became my new home for the time being. Even when I was in Taiwan, I was still eager to post on PPGWorld, although I probably shouldn't have been wasting my time. One of the key features of PPGWorld was its confluence of excellent PPG fanartists, including a professional artist named Christopher Cook. This was also when I discovered the charm of fanart. I've typically liked screenshots as opposed to fanart, because screenshots are essentially pictures from the original source of the attraction, and fanart are more often than not poorly done. However, while I can easily watch the original episodes on tape, fanart, if done well provides an opportunity to explore whole new world with whole new storylines. I began saving Powerpuff Girls fanart, and the pictures soon accumulated...25 pics...75 pics...150 pics...pretty soon my collection took up over 10MB of space, the same as Tokimeki Memorial.

And yet, my fascinaton with the Powerpuff Girls was not eternal. Fads come and fads go. In November of 2002, I saw the movie, and I was fiercely disappointed. No new episodes aired between 2002 and 2003, and the lack of new episodes caused the old episodes to become stale. My interest in the Powerpuff Girls had slowly faded to nil by the end of 2002. The Age of Buttercup seemed to disappear along with it. I continued to watch the show a few more times, including earlier this year when I purchased the 10th anniverary DVD collection, but my attraction towards Buttercup never seemed to resurface. The Age of Buttercup is now only a shadow of what it once was, but it still has a claim to fame for those special months in 2002.

Strength: 8 - Buttercup's tough-girl personalty won me over initially, but it wasn't enough to fully suppress Blossom's superior looks and intellect. So even though Buttercup was my favorite Powerpuff Girl, her influence wasn't as powerful as some of the other Heart-Melter who had all the attention to themselves.

Duration: 3 - My attraction to Buttercup began in May of 2002 and ended in November of December, a period of approximately six or seven months. That may not be very long on a grand scale, it's still an extremely long period for somebody who switches interests as often as I do. Very few of the other Heart-Melters had melted my heart for this length of time.

Recurrence: 8 - Buttercup wasn't a very strong Heart-Melter, so once I got over the Powerpuff Girls, I never really looked back. By late 2002, it became doubtful as to whether or not Buttercup was my favorite Powerpuff Girl. I never felt the same sort of attraction even after I rekindled my fascination with the show, even if she is probably still my favorite Powerpuff Girl.

Overall: 19 - Here's a fact that shows exactly the sort of Heart-Melter Buttercup was: When I originally wrote The Heart-Melters in Gallery in February of 2005, Buttercup wasn't even in this list. I had picked Blossom as the representative from the Powerpuff Girls. It wasn't until 2006 that I realized that Buttercup was the true Heart-Melter. It's quite surprising that she ranks as high as 7th on the list, but that just goes to show that she is still a valued member of the Heart-Melters Gallery.

Next Up: The Rose of Battle

The Heart-Melters #8 - Mona


Who is She?
Mona is the super-attractive developer of bizarre games in the popular Wario Ware game series. Besides being a developer, Mona also spends her time doing a wide variety of odd jobs. She played in a band, served as head cheerleader for the Diamond City Roughs, operated a pizza delivery chain and a gelato shop, and rode a motorcycle to escape from policemen with her monkey. She goes into each of her job with gusto and pizzazz, and has supreme confidence in her abilities. However, while she has a lot of positives, but she has a preference for guys is just about as messed up as my preference for girls. It is no secret that she holds a mega-crush on Wario, virtually looking up to him like a god. Why anybody would have a crush on Wario is beyond me. He's ugly. He's selfish. He's arrogant. Waluigi is so much better than Wario in every way possible except for maybe brute strength. Mona is good-looking, and she has a charitable heart. She should seriously stop wasting her time with Wario and go for somebody a lot better, although the choices in Diamond City are a bit limited.

Mona's Influence (March 2004, January 2007)
Mona is the one that is different from most of the others. Her face is cute enough to melt anybody's heart, but she's the only one without a particular age dedicated to her. Rather than an extended age, my attractions to her were quick, ephemeral flashes. My earliest memories of Mona came during a Gamers Club meeting in early 2004, which was the first time I ever played Wario Ware: Micro Mini-Games. I quickly noticed that one of the developers was a lot better looking than the others. In her amusing but long introductory video, we see her tossing banana peels at police cars trying to stop her from getting to her destination. Yet who was she? I didn't pay attention to the names of any of the developers. Wario was the only person I knew in Wario Ware, because I knew him from his past appearances in Wario Land and Mario Party. And I never really did bother to read about Wario Ware in any of my Nintendo Power issues to find out. I suppose I could have done a Google search to find out who she was, but I never had a chance to do so. I found myself chatting with Mac and Taylor on the Nintendo of America NSider chats instead of researching the mysterious but cute developer.

My path crossed with Mona a few weeks later, when Mega Party-Games was coming out in the States. I was browsing the NSider forums when NOA Greg posted a thread announcing the Mega Party-Games site. I had nothing better to do, so I went to check it out. Voila! That was when I found out the name of the mysterious developer: Mona. Mona, eh? The first thing that popped into my head was the Mona Lisa, but this Mona is a lot more attractive than the Da Vinci one. When I unlocked the desktop wallpapers, I saved them the ones with Mona onto my hard drive. Even though I never used them, I guess this is one way in which Mona is similar with the previous Heart-Melters. However, unlike the other Heart-Melters, I did not go out and buy the game to get my Mona fix. While I hadn't come up with the term Heart-Melters at the time, I never felt very compelled to look at her, so if I had written about the Heart-Melters at that particular moment, Mona wouldn't have made the list. However, that would change in a few weeks.

The Age of Mona
The moment that solidified Mona's position as a Heart-Melter came sometime in early 2004, possibly in February. I no longer remember the exact date (which is a major shame), but I was at Clemons library one night to see what was going on at the Nintendo HQ chat on NSider. Somebody on the chat mentioned the latest Wario Ware game, which would be released in America later in the year under the title Wario Ware: Twisted. I was curious to see what the mega-cute Mona would look like in this new Wario Ware game, so I headed to the Wario Ware: Twisted page on the NCL website. One of the first things I saw Mona, and it blew me away. There she was, wearing a yellow shirt with a cute, blue skirt skating around on rollerblades. I was smitten by her attractiveness and left with my heart melted. The feelings faded later that night, and I never did go out and buy Wario Ware: Twisted, but that particular event made such an impact on me that when I first wrote about the Heart-Melters Gallery in 2005, Mona made the list as one of the eight.

Even though I included Mona as one of the Heart-Melters, I still felt that she was a questionable one at best. I made implications within the thread that the Gallery will have a cap at eight. I was thinking of excising somebody when a new Heart-Melter appears on the scene, and I had targeted Mona to be the first to go if it ever happened just because her hold on the spot was based primarily on the events of one night. While I eventually changed my mind about the maximum list, Mona remained the weakest of the Heart-Melters for about three years. This too would change. Wario Ware: Smooth Moves was released for the Wii in January 2007, and it became the first Wario Ware game that my sister and I purchased. Although I hadn't been very impressed with the official art released on the NCL website, but once I played the game I knew Mona would stay as a Heart-Melter. It was the first time I had a chance to play a Wario Ware game thoroughly, and Mona was without a doubt my favorite part of the game, even if her appearances were quite sparse. However, Wario Ware: Smooth Moves wasn't a very long game. My friends and I had unlocked practically everything within the space of a day. Once my sisters and I accomplished this feat on our game, we eventually stopped playing the game, and Mona's second age quickly drew to a close. This took approximately a week or two, making the age extremely short lived as well, but I no longer see Mona as a very tentative Heart-Melter.

Strength: 9 - Mona initially earned the position as a Heart-Melter as the result of a relatively short-lived flash of feeling in one random winter day, so she probably would have ranked 10th between early 2004 and December 0f 2006. However, her second age as a Heart-Melter following the release of Wario Ware: Smooth Moves allowed her to push past Kiki to claim the #9 spot. 

Duration: 10 - Mona's first period as Heart-Melter in early 2004 was at most only a day long, although it probably didn't even last a day. Her second period in January 2007 was not much longer, coming to an end after only a week or two. Most Heart-Melters last for a couple of months, and even the Age of Kiki lasted approximately a month, so Mona drops into the cellar in this category.

Recurrence: 3 - While the Ages for most of the Heart-Melters last for a few months, but once the Ages come to a close, the attraction pretty much fades away for good. Mona is one exception in that she had an even stronger Age several years after the initial one. Even after this second Age came to a close, I continued to follow the releases of new Wario Ware games closely just to see what Mona would be doing in the newest entry. That pushes her near the top of the Recurrence list, although the top two spots are held by two of the strongest Heart-Melters, and for good reason.

Overall: 22 - If you're going to pick one Heart-Melter that's not like the others, Mona takes the cake in just about every way possible. She came out of nowhere to melt my heart for a day, and while the degree to which my heart was melted was relatively minimal at best, but that was enough to put her into the list that Lyn, Nami, and Rukia couldn't crack. And then she melted my heart a second time after a long hibernation, an achievement only the top Heart-Melter can boast, and even though it wasn't enough to push her eighth, it completely changed my opinion on Mona as a Heart-Melter.

Next Up: Spice Up Your Life

The Heart-Melters #9 - Tomo Takino


Who is She?
Somewhere in the middle of Azumangaland, there is a group of six friends that spends high school together in Miss Yukari's homeroom class: Chiyo Mihama, the 12-year-old prodigy with the intellect of a college student but the naivete of a 12-year-old...Ayumu Kasuga, the slow-minded transfer student from Osaka that is always trying to get it together...Sakaki-san, the lover of all things kawaii yet is cursed with physically mature body...Kagura, the athletic tomboy and self-proclaimed rival of Sakaki-san (who really couldn't care less)...Koyomi Mizuhara, the seemingly normal girl whose only goal is to get out of high school...and Tomo Takino...the other tomboy. Tomo is the wild one in the bunch. She calls herself the Bousou Joushikousei, or the "Wildcat High School Girl," and it definitely fits. She possesses an endless stream of energy, which probably helps her get through school, but it doesn't give her any athletic advantages. Her personality is the direct opposite of the cool and composed Yomi, whom she often goes out of her way to annoy. Not surprisingly, they have been classmates together since elementary school. Even though Tomo fulfills the basic criteria for ADHD, plus the positive illusory bias that folks with ADHD often exhibit, she can still focus her energies when she wants something done. It helped her get into the high school (which is no easy task), and it may help her fulfill her dream of becoming a police officer with ICPO. The problem is...she just isn't motivated. It explains why she is the central member of theBonkuras...the Boneheads. (Interesting enough, her name Tomo means "wisdom." So much for having a name that fits.) And even though she is often seen tormenting Yomi, Ayumu, and Chiyo...and has a running rivalry with Kagura, she still cares dearly about her friends. Even though Tomo is not among the most popular characters in Azumanga Daioh, her mere presence injects life into the series.

Tomo's Influence (November 20, 2006 - Early 2007)

So the first question is...why Tomo? First of all, this is not the same case as Sister Princess or Tales of Symphonia, where my interest in the source developed after the heart-melting experience. It's more like Pokemon, where the heart-melting experience developed after initial exposure to the source. The Azumanga Daioh is 90% female, so the Heart-Melter could have been anybody from Ayumu (the popular choice) to Nyamo to Kagura. So why Tomo? She's wild. She's crazy. She's impulsive. She's a baka. She's even shorter than Kattixie. She's vain to the point where it becomes almost delusional. She is never seen dressed up outside of school. Her method of showing affection would drive most people up the wall, so I'd feel sorry for whoever would become her boyfriend in college. Her interests and personality are completely different from mine? So why would I not mind being that unfortunate boyfriend? I've given some thought, and the reason that pops out is because unlike me, Tomo Takino is a free spirit. Whereas I continue to carry unnecessary burdens, she seemed to have dropped them all and is now living life to the fullest. Sometimes when I am caught up in lethargy and hours of doing nothing, I think about how nice it would be to break out of the shackles and enjoy life as Tomo does...or maybe it's because it's just that I find Tomo heart-meltingly cute.

Anyways, I had first read the Azumanga Daioh manga around the time when I wrote the original Heart-Melters Gallery thread. It may have been slightly earlier or slightly later. But at any rate, it was an enjoyable experience, and somehow I kind of knew that I would be hooked to the anime if I ever saw it. Maybe that wasn't the reason, but I went a year and a half to two years without seeing the anime. And then three weeks ago, my sister was able to borrow a copy of Disc 1 from a friend. I had resisted watching it because I had a biochemistry test to study for, but she insisted, and it was no use. I was hooked. It was so much that while waiting for the Wii on November 18, I walked to Best Buy and picked up the boxset. And the gig was on. For the week of Thanksgiving, even though I had gotten a Wii, I had actually spent more time watching Azumanga Daioh than playing the Wii. My urge was not "Gotta play Zelda," but "Gotta watch Azumanga." Even when I was playing Zelda, I had Azumanga Daioh running on my computer. So what does all this have to do with Tomo? Well, throughout the entire week, I noticed that Tomo seemed to stand out. Despite all of her faults, I found her strangely endearing. The more I had watched the series, the more I felt attracted to her various quirks. In the end, I had no choice but to declare her a Heart-Melter.

The Age of Tomo
If we go by the manga, Tomo would have graduated sometime in spring of 2002, which means she would have been born in 1983 or 1984. Of course, if we go by the anime, the class had gone to Okinawa for their senior trip in 2002, which means her graduation would have come in spring of 2003, so she would have been born in 1984 or 1985. This would mean she is between the ages of 21-23 by now. Of course, we have no documentation of her life after high school (except that she is possibly going to the same college as Ayumu Kasuga...roommates, maybe?), so it really doesn't matter in the end.

The Age of Tomo burned bright for a while in the latter half of 2006 and early in 2007. For about two months, Tomo and other Azumanga Daioh-related media are the only things that I can think of. I was re-watching Azumanga Daioh episodes, listening to Azumanga Daioh songs, reading Azumanga Daioh fanfics, and enjoying Azumanga Daioh AMVs. Yet was this too much? In the 10K run for the second sports fest, Tomo had zoomed out of the starting line, yet by the end she barely finished ahead of Chiyo and Ayumu, her energy obviously sapped out. A similar analogy can be seen in stars. The massive stars shine brightly, yet die off quickly. The red dwarfs don't shine quite as brightly, but they are able to remain present for literally trillions of years. Could the Age of Tomo have been like the luminous, massive stars? Unfortunately for Tomo, all signs point to yes. I had felt my affections for Tomo dying down even as early as January 1, 2007. Getting hooked on Twilight Princess didn't help, as it took my attention away from Azumanga. The more damaging thing is my slow realization that Tomo is nothing more than a hyperactive and sadistic creep once the honeymoon period wore off, especially after Tomo became a vindictive, unforgiving wildcat in the stories I did with my sisters. My attraction towards Tomo fell off the cliff, and didn’t return even after I got back into Azumanga Daioh that summer. Tomo’s status as a Heart-Melter ended almost as abruptly as it started, but it was still a fun ride.

Strength: 7 - Tomo was an interesting personality, and I was definitely attracted to her past minimum point of becoming Heart-Melter, but it never really went beyond that. She never truly dominated my thoughts, and I never stayed up late at nights thinking about her. She was just somebody that melted my heart.

Duration: 8 - It's hard to judge the duration of most Heart-Melters, since their end dates are usually so undefined. However, most of them generally stay Heart-Melters for three months. Tomo was Heart-Melter for two to three months. It's longer than Kiki and the person in the 10th spot, but still short compared to everybody else.

Recurrence: 10 - Tomo is an interesting case where I do fall back in love with her source (in this case Azumanga Daioh), I don't necessarily do the same for the Heart-Melter. Thanks to Thingys, the stories I do with my sisters that include characters from Azumanga Daioh, I can no longer stand Tomo. You may even say that I've developed a dislike for her. That may not be entirely fair, but it goes like it goes.

Overall: 25 - One thing about the Heart-Melters Gallery is that once you get in, you don't leave. I mean, it's a Gallery. The fact that I don't really like Tomo anymore doesn't mean she loses her spot. The important thing is that once upon a time, I was really attracted to Tomo Takino. I can't say I understand why anymore, but it was pretty intense.

Next Up: Lisa in Nintendoland