Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Originally, Japan was not divided up into prefectures, but into private fief-doms with land either allocated or awarded by the Emperor or the Shogunate. It wasn't until the Meiji Restoration and the illegalization of fiefs that the prefecture system was introduced. This means that the area currently known as Kagushima had a different name prior to the 1800's. According to the signboard at Sengan-En: "In the late 12th century, Minamoto-no Yoritomo appointed Koremune Tadahisa as manor lord of the Shimadzu-no-sho and protector of the fiefs of Satsuma, Oosumi and Hyuga. He took on the name of the demesne and became the first in the Shimadzu line. The Shimadzu was allowed to rule over Ryukyu (present Okinawa) in Edo era and reigned over southern Kyushu as a non-hereditary daimyo (lord) of the Tokugawa Shogun. Sengan-en is the official name for Iso Garden. Shimadzu Mitsuhisa made the Oo-iso Shimotsu Hamakado Residence of Kamata Izumo Masachika and built his residence here in 1658. Their main residence was the Tsurumaru Castle constructed by the order of the 18th lord of Shimadzu Iehisa at the foot of Shiroyama. The residence here in Sengan-en has been succeeded as a villa of the Shimadzu clan for generations. Sengan-en was designated as a National Cultural Asset in 1958".

Kagoshima has several buses that tour the city (City Mawari and the City Tours). City Tours then has 3 separate routes - Shiroyama, Waterfront and Night View. Both Shiroyama and Waterfront are 180 yen for the entire route. Shiroyama is about hourly, and Waterfront is closer to every 90 minutes or so. The two run in opposite directions, so you need to be a little careful of that where the routes overlap. If you want to get off and visit a specific site along the route, it'll be another 180 yen to get on the next bus that comes along. If you're going to do this more than 3 times, get a day pass from the driver for 600 yen. This day pass will also give you a 10% discount at some museums for the day.

I took the Waterfront bus, which goes by the Meiji Restoration Museum before heading to Dolphin Port. Then it follows the coastline north and east a few miles, past the current location of the 5 Great Kagoshima Bridges, to the end of the loop at Sengan-en. From here, the bus doubles back to Shiroyama, and visits the Saigo museum at the back of the hill before going to Tenmonkan, then returns to the train station.

Sengan-en is a huge section of land sitting along the coastline facing Sakura-jima. Unfortunately, that day the air was really hazy and I could only just make out the outline of the island. It's 1000 yen to get inside, and the entrance way is lined with photo ops, restaurants and souvenir shops. There are several gardens, lots of old buildings, and hiking trails that can take an hour to cover. You can easily spend the entire day here. Keep an eye on the bus schedule, though, since the buses do run rather infrequently, and they're often 10-15 minutes late because of the traffic.

Sengan-en was also one of the locations used for the filming of the NHK "Atsuhime" TV drama. There are photos around the grounds of the film crew and actors at work. Unfortunately, none of the photos make good pictures themselves.

Satusuma is famed for its cut glassworks. Kiriko is one of the most well-known makers of Satsuma cut glass, and they have a gallery and sales floor on the grounds. This stuff is NOT cheap.

From certain vantage points you can see the large letters cut into the mountainside. One of the information markers described this as having come from a Chinese practice, which took skilled workers on scaffolding 3 months to complete.

(The Satsuma clan emblem is incorporated in the roofworks, along with the little gargoyle.)

One of the souvenir shops had this cat pattern on the window, and the below figure in front of the door.

Roppongi Bridal, which has an outlet in Kagoshima City, supplies kimono for visitors to try on and walk around the grounds in. I didn't see pricing for it, but the service comes with professionals that help assemble the kimono with you.

(One of the visitors trying out the kimono.)

One of the things that the curators really emphasize at Sengan-en is the fact that the Shimdzu lord at the time of the opening up of the country to westerners decided to embrace the use of western technology. He encouraged his people to visit the U.S. and Europe and then financed the construction of factories nearby. The above building is a museum dedicated to those factories, which included the manufacture of cannon, shells, and the Kiriko cut glass mentioned earlier.

While the entrance fees are more expensive than normal, you can easily spend the entire day here exploring the grounds and hiking the hills. Well worth the 180 yen bus ticket to get here (figure 20 minutes on the Waterfront City View bus from the Kagoshima-chuo station if you don't get off and sight-see along the way.)

Monday, May 30, 2011

Kagoshima - Terukuni Shrine and Tanshoen Park

If you're walking along the Shiroyama Promenade and you follow the path down and to the south, you'll come out at the back of Tanshoen Garden. Otherwise, just go to the Kagoshima City Art Museum and go a couple of blocks southwest - you'll see the Garden just before you get to Terukuni Shrine.

The Garden is essentially an open park with 3 statues, a small tree-lined pond in the back and a memorial mound to one side. Right next door is Terukuni Shrine, which is easy to see from the street as you approach from Tenmonkan because of the huge white stone gate in front.

(Old castle grounds layout.)

There are a couple of marker signs around the garden, explaining the statues and giving a little history of the neighborhood. The below quoted texts come from the marker signs. I'm including the accompanying images from the signs, if any.


"Tanshoen Garden and three Shimadzu statues
The first Japanese Morse code signals
... Nariakira, Hisamitsu and Tadayoshi still watch over their garden...
As the "revere the Emperor, oust the barbarians" movement was gaining ground in Edo and Kyoto leading up to Ii Naosuke's "Ansei massacre", Shimadzu Nariakira (28th lord) sent the first Morse code messages in Japan from this garden over 600 meters to the inner precincts of Tsurumaru Castle.

To the right of Terukuni Shrine, Tanshoen was at that time part of the outer precincts of the castle. It was, and still is, famous for its hillside waterfall, lake and stone bridge. In 1917, statues of Nariakira, his brother Hisamitsu and nephew Tadayoshi were erected."


Statue of Shimadzu Tadayoshi
"Shimadzu Tadayoshi was born the eldest son of Shimadzu Hisamitsu in 1840. According to the will of the 28th lord of Shimadzu Nariakira, he married a daughter of Nariakira and became the lord of the Satsuma Domain. Supported by his grandfather, Nariakira and his father, Hisamitsu, he committed himself to reforming the clan's policies and improving the army and navy.

The whole Satsuma clan worked together when Hisamitsu went to Edo in 1862, when shogunate government reform was undertaken, and during the Namamugi Incident and the Anglo-Satsuma war. After the Anglo-Satsuma war, Tadayoshi intended on improving relations with Britain. To this end, he dispatched delegates to England, including Godai Tomoatsu and other Satsuma students, which ultimately amounted to the development of human power. He dedicated himself to developing Japan's first textile factory thereby enhancing the Shuseikan Project.

After the Meiji Restoration, Tadoyashi took the initiative in transferring domain registers to the emperor together with the Choshu, Tosa and Saga domains. He then was appointed first governor of the Kagoshima Domain and subsequently a member of the House of Peers of Japan. He lived from the end of the Shogunate era through to the Meiji Restoration. Being a dutiful man, he kept his word to his father Hisamitsu; doing so required that he not cut his topknot till his death in accordance with his father's will. In 1897, he died at the age of 58. Like his father Hisamitsu, a state funeral was also conducted for him."


Statue of Shimadzu Nariarika
Shimadzu Nariakira (1809-1858) 28th Lord of Satsuma. Nariakira was born in 1809. He was cherished by his great-grandfather, Shigehide, who had a keen interest in foreign culture, which is why Nariakira also became very well versed in foreign culture and science. After China's defeat by Britain in the Opium Wars in the early 1840s, it was feared that there would be an attempt to colonies [sic] Japan too. Nariakira realized that Japan had to unite as a powerful and rich country to prevent this. He became Lord of Satsuma in 1851. Soon after he had Shuseikan industrial complex built at Iso to manufacture ships, iron, textiles, and glassware also a telegraph office was established there too. He also understood that education was a key factor, and he oversaw the training of young men such as Saigo Takamori and Okubo Toshimichi. Nariakira passed away in 1858, yet his dream of a united Japan was carried by his younger brother, Hisamitsu, and nephew, Tadayoshi, and men such as Saigo and Okubo.

(From the marker sign.)

This bronze statue of Nariakira and those of Hisamitsu and Tadayoshi in the Tanshoen Garden were made by the engraver Asakura Fumio (1883-1964) in 1917.


(Monument at the top of the nearby mound.)


As mentioned above, Terukuni Shrine is right next door, and you can either enter through gaps in the fence, or go back around to the main street and in through the front entrance.

(Instructions on how to pay your respects properly, and "Kagoshima calendars" for 200 yen ($2.50 USD.)

(Looking back towards the front entrance.)

(Full range of protective amulets available for sale.)


(View from the front entrance as you approach from Tenmonkan shopping district.)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Are you Alice? commentary

There are two very similar stories based on Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland" - the game company Quin Rose's "Heart no Kuni no Alice" (Alice in the Land of Hearts), and Ai Ninomiya and Ikumi Katagiri's "Are You Alice?" Both feature humanoid characters with animal-like features (although in "Heart" the characters actually can change into their animal forms), with the main character, "Alice" trying to figure out why they have arrived in Wonderland, and murderous Mad Hatters out to kill various targets. Are You Alice? (AYA?) has the distinction of having a male version of the character (not to be confused with the 1998 hentai Boy Alice in Wonderland.

(Are You Alice?)

(Heart no Kuni no Alice)

(Boy Alice in Wonderland)

To me, AYA? raises an interesting question, although as whole it is a fairly derivative work - "what happens if the main character stops showing up in the story?" The first thing to keep in mind is that within the Japanese Shinto system, places, things and ideas can have their own powers, or their own gods. If you keep a toy or doll long enough, your feelings enter that object and it takes on a kind of life of its own. That's why there are ceremonies for "sending off" dolls every year (check out this link for pictures of a Hina Matsuri purification ritual).

Ok, so people can put emotional energy into things that are kept near them, right? What does that mean when we look at writers having trouble getting started on a story? You pour all of your thoughts and dreams into a few paragraphs, get frustrated, throw the page away and then try again. How would the abandoned characters on that discarded sheet feel, if you could ask them? And then what if for some reason the main character didn't show up in the story because the story was written about them and they stopped reading it? The supporting characters would have nothing to support and their own tales would go untold. Now, turn that around and look at a story being told to one specific girl, being reworked and expanded on with each retelling, until the girl outgrew it and the author stopped telling it. What happens to those supporting characters now?

AYA? doesn't really come out and ask these questions directly, instead they're inherent parts of the story. Ignore that fact that the 89th incarnation of Alice is male, that's not the important part. I'm wondering what the author's answers to these questions will be. Worth checking out.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

May edition of the "related articles in the media"

Here's the batch of articles to show up in the media from January to May, regarding anime, manga and related stuff. The reasons I don't post these more often is that it can take a month to get 4-5 articles off the major media sites, and that no one comments on them here when I do post them.

Generic New News

Japan Times

Boycott of 'anime' fair worries industry

Towns hoping video game tieups lure hits

Story on Liu Chon, AKA L Dart.
Chinese manga artist tries his hand in Japan

Gantz movie review

I don't know what is it about foreign artists attempting to do manga in Japan, but they occasionally get some coverage in the English newspapers, but never seem to be good enough to be worth reading. Anyway, here's a piece on Lars Martinson and Adam Pasion, if you care.
American ex-pats in Japan draw manga

Artist Yoshitaka Amano interview

Aspiring animator comes to Japan to chase her dreams

Comments on a new book detailing the popularity of costumed mascots in Japan.
The busy lives of Japan's super furry creatures

"Watanabe Masako and Kai Yukiko, Fantastic Journey" Review

Anime's late, late show

Review of "Drucker in the Dugout" NHK TV anime series

"Tezuka Osamu's Student Life in Osaka University: To Be a Doctor or a Manga Artist, That Is the Question"

Daily Yomiuri

Puff piece on Kazuhiko Kato, formerly known as Monkey Punch, now a professor of Media and Arts at Otemae University in Osaka.
Mangaka punches above his weight

2011 is now-or-never time for Japan's pop culture biz

Review of One Piece and Toriko 3-D movie

From a historical perspective, the following article is important, in that it discusses one of the very early picture scrolls that pre-dates ukiyo-e-style "manga" illustrations, and was drawn at about the time of the "Tales of Genji" scroll.
Famous 'manga' scroll originally had 2 sides

Comments on "Puella Magi Madoka Magica" TV anime series

New York Anime Festival

New 'Macross' film satisfies as it showcases possbilities of anime

Review of the manga by Juri Ogawa
Review of "Orecchi the former racehorse"

Everyone wants to be otaku in Mexican city

"Children who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below" review

Comments on end of 'Madoka' TV anime

Review of English translation of Mizuki's "On Toward Our Noble Deaths"

Comments on Anisong event held in China in Feb.

Review of "Buddha"

"Buddha" manga exhibit at Tokyo Museum

Monkey Business: New Voices

Anime 'Pilgrimages'

Review of a documentary on the sound engineer for the early "Astro Boy" TV series.
The Echo of Astro Boy's Footsteps

Review of a Hideo Azuma manga exhibit

Japan should embrace its cosplay culture



The life of the JET teacher goes manga in Lars Martinson’s Tonoharu


French festival exposes Japan's female manga underground

Translator fined over child porn cartoons

Japanese Manga Artist Gives Recital in Versailles

Friday, May 27, 2011

Nidaime Komezukuri

Second Generation Rice Use (二代目米作り).

Back when I was in Tokyo, I was at Jason's to pick up snacks for work, and this particular label caught my eye. It looked alcohol related, but was discounted to 40 yen (50 cents) and was in the soft drinks section. Actually, it's branded as "Second Generation, Using Rice" (Nidaime Komezukuri). It's an attempt by the JT (Japan Tobacco) corporation to find a use for rice as a carbonated soda pop (probably to make up for JT's decline in profits after the government raised taxes on cigarettes. JT also produces Roots coffee.) It's sweet, and does have something of a rice flavor, though it's closer to Calpis than anything else. The fact that Jason's was unloading it means that JT may need to keep looking.

Drink Nidaime Komezukuri. It's rice-a-licious!

Meanwhile, on a "definitely sake-related" note, we have One Cup Ozeki, This is at the cheap swill end of the sake meter, being what it's called - a one-cup serving of 180 yen ($2.20 USD) sake. The point though, is not the cheap drunk you get from it, but the fact that the back of the labels all show pictures of different uses that have been found for the glasses after they've been washed out. Examples include a pencil holder, a flower vase and a place to put your crayons. Sake used as a vehicle for creative recycling concepts...

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Review: Geobreeders vol. 07

(All rights reserved by their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

Geobreeders, vol. 07, by Akihiro Itou - Grade: A
At Hound HQ, a VTOL battleship - the Barracuda - lands and the tech and Narusawa both board along with the Jinguuji ("Zinguzi" in romaji) Heavy Industries engineering rep. At the scene of the actual fight, the trailer containing the nuke warhead gets closer to the waiting Hounds and were-cats, with the Cobra tight beside firing on it. Inside the trailer, one of the were-cats is trying to program the box to blow in 60 seconds. Both the waiting Hounds and the waiting were-cats start shooting and no one can see anything through the smoke. The Cobra is destroying everything in sight, including the vending machine that dispensed Yu's cigarettes. In a rage, Yu grabs a crossbow and shoots a bolt into the turret of the Cobra's vulcan gun. Taba's too far away from the trailer for the IR link to connect, so he runs in closer, almost getting decapitated by the Cobra's tail prop. The protect seals blow, taking out half of the trailer and most of the one were-cat. A second were-cat runs in and finishes programming the timer on the bomb. There's lots more shooting and things blowing up, with the Cobra finally being grounded. The pilot runs away from the wreckage, and Mihara performs various stunt moves on her scooter in order to save Taba. The second were-cat yells out the order for the others to retreat over cell phones, but he's finally deleted by Taba.

The Hounds rush to the trailer and discover that the second were-cat hadn't realized that the first one had entered 6 seconds before being deleted, and the timer was actually set to 660 seconds. Both the Kagura members in the pickup truck, and the Hounds turn tail and run away. Leaving Taba looking confused and Mihara grabbing him by the back of the shirt and dragging him to the safety of a subway entrance. The bomb goes off, but it's just another pack of plain high explosives. Irie realizes that both trailers were decoys and he orders his command staff to connect the H-System (his Hound database) to the N-System (probably the nation-wide police network) to backtrack and determine what they overlooked.

(Narusawa is good at shooting at delivery trucks, not so good when trucks or cars blow up on her.)

At Kagura's HQ, Maya runs down from the roof to grab Eiko and drags her upstairs. The two of them rush back down to the TV and watch the news about the current conflagration in the city. Eiko says that they have two choices - run out to save their friends, or pretend that they didn't see anything and keep drinking beer. Maya votes for the first option, Maki and Eiko for the second. Maya shouts out "please save Taba", and the other two are stunned at hearing her speak for the first time. Doesn't provoke them into action, though.

The two female were-cats that had last been seen vanishing into the cellphone at Shin-Nihon Avionics in volume 5 are now driving an ambulance to the drop off point outside the doushinshii comic fair. A patrol car spots the vehicle that had been reported missing by a hospital from the first warehouse blast, and Hound is notified. Takami is in the parking lot outside of the comic fair building, looking for the shipping truck that would have her group's new doujinshii in it. The truck ("Aka Kuma" ("red bear", and possibly "devil"), a play on "Kuro Neko" (the "black cat" shipping company)) is back-to-back with the ambulance, with the nuclear warhead being transferred in a regular cardboard box. Takami sees her package and runs forward just as Hound and the U.S. Marines show up and surround the truck. Yuka's phone rings and she shouts at it thinking it's Eiko, slow on returning her call, but it's actually Irie to tell her that the job's not done yet and they still have to get the bomb back. The Barracuda arrives with Yashima flying, the Zinguzi rep manning the guns, and Narusawa riding in back. Narusawa rappels down (barely) and sets up her sniper rifle as the Kagura group shows up in time to save Takami from a bullet from the female Aka Kuma were-cats. Takami gets into the back of the Kagura pickup truck in order to rescue her manga, then asks who the new girl is (Yu says "Taba's pet, apparently", sending Takami into a panic).

(Yu dislikes seeing perfectly good cigarette machines being shot up.)

There's another stand-off, as the American forces tell Hound to stand down and let them take over. (The Hounds try to find someone that understands English, and several of them comment on having had some lessons in JR high, but not remembering any of it. Yuka yells the only English she knows - "Give me chocolate!" and Mihara starts with "You mo" but Taba stops her.) Irie's on the phone to an American counterpart, and he decides that he really doesn't like being ordered around. He tells the Hounds to stand their ground. 4 Russian Hind helicopters fly up controlled by were-cats, and one of the choppers opens fire on a marine chopper, triggering another barrage of bullets. Yashima throws the switch in the Barracuda, activating DAX-1a. DAX's were-cat suppression field works, keeping them from healing from bullet wounds or from fighting well, but the massive battery in the back of the plane only has a 15 second lifespan. Narusawa succeeds at blowing out the Aka Kuma truck's front tire, and Takami tries to climb into the truck to get her manga. But the were-cats have put ropes around the vehicle and one of the Hind choppers lifts it into the air. Taba and Mihara follow Takami onto the truck, with Takami not liking how well the other two are getting along. Inside the cab, one of the female were-cats exits via a cell phone, but the other, the blond, sees Mihara's leg hanging over the side in the rear view mirror, and she climbs up to kill them.

Irie orders his assistant to buy him a coffee from the vending machine with extra sugar and cream, giving her the 120 yen this time. Yashima ejects the battery from the back of the VTOL and then chases the other three Hinds to shoot them down. Takami gets knocked off the truck, and has to skate across the side of a skyscraper before Taba can save her. The driver had been knocked off as well, and she hits the ground, then grabs someone's cell and dials herself back into the cab on her own phone. During the lull, Taba prepares to climb the rope up to the chopper, since it's his job as the sole salaryman to do all of the falling. But Mihara volunteers to do it for him, causing Taba to praise her and Takami to remain in panic mode. Yashima arrives in the Barracuda, trying to shoot at the chopper carrying the bomb, and it smashes into a billboard, setting the van into a heavy spin. Mihara uses her one protect seal to stave off the attack from the were-cat flying the chopper. Taba yells at her to stop the spinning, and she goes through a list of video games (Red Dawn, Afghan Breakdown, Rambo: First Blood and Deathline) before slamming the van back into a building, which does the trick.

Taba tries to get to the warhead, but Takami's more concerned about her manga. They both get knocked out of the van (Takami lands on her feet; Taba on his back on the roof of a car). The box with the manga falls safely onto the street, but gets burned to a crisp when a neighboring car catches fire and blows up. The driver were-cat tries to kill Mihara, but the cable holding up the van snaps, sending the driver into the blades of the chopper and killing her. Yashima had been following the van out to sea, and he watches as it falls into the water and a great big shadow rises underneath it. The shadow turns into a nuclear submarine and the van settles on its nose. In the sub is Vashuka and an assistant. On a building, watching, is the black-haired female were-cat that had been in the Aka Kuma truck, a black-haired male were-cat, and Taki. Taki's group lists off all of the losses they've suffered in this fiasco (including the explosives, the Hinds and now the warhead). In the control room, Irie is getting a status report of all of the Hounds losses, and Yashima calls in for a pick up - the Barracuda has finally failed and crash-landed outside of the building.

Yuka, Yu and Takami retreat to a public bath again, and they decide to run away to someplace where Eiko can't find them and yell at them for not completing the job. Yuka intends to ditch Taba as being a hindrance, and Takami as well for raising an objection. However, Maya comes into the baths to get milk to drink, and Yuka wants to know how she'd found them. Naturally, Eiko is waiting outside, pissed. Yu asks Maki how they'd slipped up, and Umizaki answers that they'd just gone out for more beer and found the pickup by accident. Taba, meanwhile, is at the docks, shouting for Mihara to come back. Of course, having a waitress that can survive a Kagura mission on her first day is a bit too good to be true, and she is. Descartes had been on an aircraft carrier directing the marines, and he meets Mihara, Private First Class, when she arrives on the flight deck. Her job for the CIA had been to infiltrate Kagura Company and bring back a protect seal to analyze, and had failed at that.


At Moto Kasadera station, on the Ayatetsu line (which is a parody of an existing station of the same pronunciation but different kanji on the Meitetsu line, near Nagoya) Narusawa is trying to meet a friend while Taba is out shopping for food with Maya. Narusawa gets stood up and goes to a nearby shrine to brood. A strange man sees her there and comments on the area looking like a graveyard, then the guy shambles off, telling her that it'd be better if she leaves quickly. Taba tells Maya to return ahead of him and then goes to the shrine where Maya had been found, and runs into Narusawa. The two of them go to a cafe in a sky rise near the station and talk, sharing stories regarding fighting were-cats. Meanwhile, the strange man, "Marvin" (who had been seen in the File.XX - Breakthrough OAV), goes to the hideout to see Kuro-Neko. There's been a growing impatience with the way Kuro-Neko has been running them and Marvin is one of the were-cats that has had enough. He blasts his way through the guards and sets a pack of explosives on Kuro-Neko's desk. KN was expecting this and he has a cell phone ready. The bomb goes off, killing Marvin but missing KN. The blast is across the street from the coffee shop, and Taba saves Narusawa from the flying glass from the windows. Both of them get calls to get to work and they promise to meet up again. In another building, the anti-KN group is trying to figure out where KN is sending himself, and Taki tells them that they're wasting their time. While in the Kagura offices, as the others are complaining that Taba bought the wrong meals for them, Maya is looking out the window at the plume of smoke, thinking that something's going wrong with the city.


In the epilogue, Maki has returned to her gun supplier during the Christmas season to get some more guns to protect herself from some gang members that have decided to take her out. The owner shows her a pair of Lugers as a "Christmas present", but she repeats her motto of "war is firepower" (that is, "victory through superior firepower") and asks for an RPG. The owner tells her to shut up and just take the stupid guns. Outside, the gang has set up attack points in front of the parking lot. Maki wins, despite the inferior firepower, but while admonishing the bad guys, saying that even with one hundred people they couldn't win against her, gets hit by a car. Lying in the street, she says "wow, the wind's gotten really strong suddenly" (refusing to admit that it was the car that hit her).

(Marvin and his trench coat shotguns.)


("Victory through superior firepower!")

Maki likes Lucky Strike (super milds).

At the doujinshii comic fair, when Takami is trying to get her manga from the Aka Kuma van, her two co-artists get distracted by cosplayers dressed up as Iruparattso and Alcard.

Takami's manga is named "Nuru Nuru Sentinel" (Slimy Sentinel).

Narusawa and Taba visit Miharu Coffee Bar, "in business since 1959".

Summary: You know the routine now. Great action, great artwork, hard to follow plotlines. Highly recommended.