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By Professor Spork

At first glance, the plot of Shakugan no Shana appears inspired, but when stripped down, it essentially becomes a high school drama series with bits of action and horror thrown in to attract attention. Good thing you won't be watching it for the plot.

Sakai Yuji is a normal kid with normal ambitions and expectations from his life. One fine day, though, en route to school, everything around him freezes and he appears to be the only one capable of motion as a giant doll-like creature starts devouring the helpless humans. As it approaches Yuji, a mysterious girl clad in black, with flaming red hair and a literally flaming sword cuts it down. The girl, Shana, explains that she is a Flame Haze, a hunter whose job is to track down and kill the Denizens of the Crimson Realm (i.e. the frozen world, which is, you guessed it, tinted red). Also, turns out that Sakai Yuji is actually dead, and this Yuji is just a temporary copy of the original.

The anime starts off brilliantly, introducing a highly interesting villain and spinning a horror-story with marked success. A third of the way through, though, it starts losing steam, and the genre veers from horror into a strange mix between action and slice-of-life. The plot wouldn't survive close scrutiny, so it's advisable to avoid looking for holes - there are numerous. It's not really as though the characters are very unique either, which leaves a major question: why does this show have three seasons?

To be honest, yours truly isn't quite sure. One theory is that this anime has at least one quality appealing to almost everyone. There are villains with evil goals, a love triangle, conflicting views on the value of a Torch (a 'replacement copy' like Yuji), rivalry between a pair of strong characters, and everyday life anyone can relate to. While Shana herself is typical to the point where she could be replaced with Ayano from Kaze no Stigma and no one would notice, Yuji doesn't take completely to the backseat. He's not a punching bag, and he deals pretty well with the sudden turn his life has taken (a little too well, maybe, depending on your taste). Most importantly, both their powers and skills grow throughout the series, but they never outshine the villains' abilities. The series also does an excellent job of balancing its unusual combination of genres, and is packed neatly into its 24 episodes set.

The soundtracks are nothing you'd want to go back to, unfortunately, but they're not off-putting either, which is more than what you can ask for sometimes. The style of artwork for the characters is the definition of moe (cutesy), but the anime gets serious props for gorgeous backgrounds.

The series doesn't take itself too seriously, so you shouldn't either. It's adapted from light novels, and as long as you don't lift your expectations sky-high, it's relaxing to watch when you have a bit of free time between homework and assignments. If you do enjoy the first season, be sure to work through season two, because that's where the real story - what decent parts there is - lies.



By Orin

Paced is a comedy show about the friendship between a set of oddballs, whose daily lives are adventures in themselves. Basically imagine Community in the 90s, and you got Spaced. The series is made by the same creators as Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead, and with the same goofy-geeky humour.

Simon Pegg plays Tim, a comic artist who recently got dumped by his girlfriend and had to move out. One day, Tim meets Daisy (played by Jessica Stevenson), a cheerful aspiring writer/journalist (we are not really sure) who will do anything to procrastinate. Since both of them are pretty much homeless, they decide to take a flat together, faking the appearance of a couple to fulfil the requirements of the landlady. And as they move into their new flat, they meet the weirdly nosy landlady Marsha and neighbour Brian, a contemporary artist who specialises in agony and darkness. Add their best friends Mike (who claims to be a weapons expert) and Twist - who works in fashion (local laundry) - and you have an eccentric entourage.

Honestly the idea of the show might seem susceptible to being too stereotypical, but it's not. The cleverly written script, free-flowing with pop culture references from Star Wars to Scooby Doo is a perfect fit for the generation who have been raised by television. The series never ceases to be funny, with small things like Tim saying “I can be emotional. I cried like a child at the end of Terminator 2!” to save his relationship, but it is the top notch acting that takes it up among the favourites.

You may think that Spaced will not suit your taste, but watch a few episodes. You will not be disappointed. It may seem a bit old, considering the two seasons was telecasted in 1999 and 2000, but it is never boring. Also, since the two seasons only have fourteen episodes altogether, you will go through the series in no time. Spaced oozes with pop culture references with sharp writing and would be a great addition to any TV collection.

By Sifana Sohail

Shout out to all math geeks. Or even people who are remotely interested in maths. Statistically, our percentage in the population of the earth is pretty low, but the fact that we're a minority definitely doesn't obliterate the fact that there are still people out there doing some pretty random and incredible things with maths.

Heard of Vi Hart? If you haven't, you should definitely check out her YouTube Channel (Vihart). From showing you how to doodle (productively, using maths) to proving that Spongebob's Pineapple Under the Sea isn't actually a pineapple (before Kenny Pittenger, the artist, fixed it after seeing her 'letter'), Vi has some pretty mind-boggling mathematical videos. In the set of videos about doodling, she talks about how to draw elephants and camels disappearing into the edge of the page; how to draw knotted snakes and knotted rope, stars and fractals and a whole bunch of other really interesting things, which are infinitely more interesting if you love maths.

Her videos cover a wide range of mathematics Fibonacci sequence and Lucas numbers, infinite series (anyone suffer from binominal theorems in Pure Maths?), Mobius strips, and a rant about Pi (that thing ? ð) making maths much more complicated than it needs to be. In one of her videos, she explores the arrangement of leaves in plants and spirals in pinecones and petals in flowers, and why they are the way they are using a combination of maths, biochemistry and physics. It probably sounds daunting and pointless but if it doesn't and if you actually like science, but hate studying it then this would be a great reminder as to why you took biology in the first place. She also talks about sound, amplitude and frequency, and does a great job of simply explaining any O level Physics concepts we may have struggled with. Since she calls herself a Mathemusician, she has an interesting collection of recordings on her website. She has a couple of videos of performances with paper Instruments and another couple of videos about burning paper instruments...

In any case, Vi Hart's video's are so packed with information that it's hard to summarise even one video, let alone all of her videos at once. The only thing left to be said is if 'you're in maths class and you're bored' her videos would provide a lot of inspiration to replace the hatred towards maths that your possibly old and incompetent math teacher has instilled in you. After all, not everyone is a math geek.

Extra Credit: For those of you who know about Khan Academy, Vi Hart is a professional mathematician working there. And yes, that's a big deal.



By Mahir

GTA5 is coming out later this year but while it's under development, there are plenty of alternatives lying around and THQ's Saints Row: The Third deserves to be the top contender with its insanely destructive gameplay and fluent graphics making it one of the best games of the open world action-adventure genre.

The game once again starts in Stilwater with the Saints ruling the domain but one messed up bank robbery forces them to open new base at Steelport, where a mysterious crime organisation called the Syndicate consisting of three distinct gangs has its root. The objective of the game is simple: obliterate the Syndicate and make the Saints the top guys once again using any means necessary.

Most games in such genre start with a talented bottom feeder who works his way up in the food chain. But not SR. Gamers start as the leader of a strong gang and is given airstrike abilities and attack choppers within the very first hour so that you can unleash hell upon your enemies. Throughout the game you can actually be creative with the kind of meaningless mayhem you cause and it will earn you respect. Of course, your destructive decisions will have consequences but it's nothing compared to the satisfaction derived from destroying stuff without any reason.

If all this carnage is still not enough, then there is always the “Whored Mode” (a lot like the Horde mode of Gears of War) which lets gamers take on swarms of enemies, either solo or multiplayer, and to make things more challenging.

The graphics, voice acting, customisations of the game are brilliant but the story of the game jumps around a little, leaving loose threads in the plot. Also the game is unrepentantly offensive, so people with delicate sensibilities may want steer clear of this game.

Nevertheless, SR: The Third is an awesome game for you to unleash your inner demon without facing any real consequences, so we definitely recommend this game to miscreants and evil doers.


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