Pratik Shrestha – Portfolio

IT Engineer, Creative Designer, CEO @ Firefly Services

Kimi no Na wa – A “classic masterpiece” of the modern era anime.

Allow me to first clarify that this is more of an admiration of the movie rather than a review. Before I begin discussing the movie let us talk a little bit about ‘anime’ itself first- I myself have always been a fan of all sorts anime but keeping in mind the cheesy set ups and exaggerated dialog deliveries alongside awesome action sequences that you see in most of the popular anime series, it might not be a cup of tea for everyone.

 

But if you take the time to browse through some classics by some of the more serious studios you will see that some of the most heart touching and unique story telling can be found in this genre that possibly no feature film could deliver in that manner. There is a unique and different vibe to anime movies that even a non-anime lover can appreciate if he/she takes the time to delve into them. Most of the movies by Studio Ghibli alongside ‘Grave of the Fireflies’, ‘Princess Mononoke’ , ‘The Girl who leapt through time’, ‘The Secret World of Arrietty’, ‘My neighbor Totoro’ to name a few are some of the anime movies that give you goose bumps even when you re-watch them.

 

Rest aside the amazing story to be told in itself, the effort that goes into creating these movies with such fluid hand drawn environment and illustrations, the rich color pallets often presented, the authenticity of the sound effects, the accuracy of the landscapes and geometry of the buildings or objects for even the minute details is what makes these film appear even more realistic, enjoyable and in some cases more relatable to viewers of all age group.

 

Now coming back to the title in discussion – Kimi no Na wa – literally translated and released as ‘Your Name’ outside of Japan, obviously has all of the features I just mentioned and the astonishing fact is all those features were present in the classic movies decades old but were not truly present in any of recent releases.

This one however was an exception, having been released in 2016, it is a multi award winner and the 4th highest grossing movie of all time in Japan, to date. That sure speaks volume about it, does it not? I will not go into details about how much of a commercial success it was and all the awards it won, simply because there is wiki for that. Unfortunately I was two years too late to watch this masterpiece however I consider myself lucky to have stumbled into it without any specific reference in 2018 and watched it. Needless to say I was blown away by this fantastic movie, which is why I could not keep myself from writing this belated review.

kimi-no-na-wa

Let me talk about the movie itself now. This movie has a broad genre due to the sheer scope it covers. The story transitions so well into multiple genres, all the while maintaining the viewers interest. This movie has two teenagers – a boy and a girl by the name of Taki and Mitsuha respectively as its main character who do not know each other but get to experience each other’s life from their point of view – by a certain way – I do not want to give out the details because I want to keep the mystic. It starts as a romantic spin off with a magical touch that has been seen in many movies, at which point you feel like its just a generic movie but soon after you begin to get this feel that it has something more.

The story subtly changes its tone to a more serious and chilling tone to a thriller genre and then with such grace switches to a sci-fi setup having you kind of confused but in a very good way as it completely grasps your mind waiting for an explanation. Even the side characters although given much lesser screen time somehow feel important and you can understand their sentiment as well. It makes you scold yourself for not paying enough attention at the beginning and you feel like you missed something somehow at the beginning because the story takes such a sharp turn after about halfway through the movie, the drag gets you spinning and admiring the awesomeness in the story.

I literally got chills more than one time at the later stages of this movie. The movie occasionally and subtly highlights some of the ancient Japanese customs in a very well presented ritual that makes you feel like you are watching the ritual in first person as it gives a very good amount of screen time to the scene which also acts as a very meaningful plot to the main story that you figure out later on. Like I said every detail that you skip at the beginning thinking of it as generic, later bears so much weight to the story that it make you realize that you underestimated the movie’s plot at the start and that’s exactly the brilliance in this movie’s story telling.

 

If my blabbering so far convinced you to watch this movie, simply go watch it but if not and you are looking for more about the story in a review with spoilers I suggest you don’t do so as any more info takes away the movie’s charm which is in its unsuspecting twist. As much as I would like to write a more detailed review about this movie, it simply would not be justice to you as a reader if you have not watched this movie, I would be simply be spoiling it for you, which is why I will not do that.

Just trust me on this one and watch it for the sheer brilliance you will find in this story.

And if you already have watched it, I can say for sure you agree that this movie, if not the best, is very well one of the most interesting and thrilling stories that any anime movie has presented in the last decade.

 

This is an absolutely must-watch movie for any anime, sci-fi, thriller, romance … well pretty much all the movie lovers out there.

A 10/10 in my view, for it is a movie about a lifetime, that will be in my gallery for a lifetime.

Red Dead Redemption PS3 Review

Read Dead Redemption. – A 10/10 game by Rockstar.

I played this game on my PS3 not so long ago and this is by far my most favorite game of all time and I doubt anything of this genre is going to come near it for a long long time. In fact to be honest, I restarted my blog just so I could blabber on about how terrifically awesome this game is.

It is not quite often that we come across a game of this genre and even when we do, it is rarely this perfect.

This game is the perfect embodiment of a wild west storyline with very pleasing balance between open world gameplay and going through directed objectives to meet the storyline.

There were times when I simply wandered off to the red cliffs or to the desert in my horse to relax. Shooting up thugs and thieves or helping out strangers is equally fun and nothing feels like grinding as even the most non relatable npc’s seem to have their own story going on so somehow you feel connected and the entire game feels more than, well just a game.

You play as John Marston, a retired outlaw who is now blackmailed by government officials into tracking and hunting down his gang members from the past in order to get back his family held captive by the officials themselves and avoid any punishments from law. As I said this is the ultimate cowboy experience anyone will get to have in a video game. There are various things to do within this game includes horseback riding, breaking a wild horse to tame it and make it your own, shooting with four major gun types – Pistol, Shotgun, Rifle and a Sniper. Killing or Looting Innocents will cause town sheriffs to hunt you down and chase you till you escape the radar or pay off your bounty somewhat similar and reminiscent of GTA being that the title is being brought by the same game publishers.

Even side quests are not at all boring and there are a variety of mini-games you can play when you come across townsfolk or strangers in the middle of nowhere. You can play dice, poker, blackjack usually inside taverns or anyplace with a decent table near a town or settlement. Some nooks and corners have people ready to challenge you for a five fingers fillet, arm wrestling, horseshoes. My personal favorite is when some random outlaw challenges for a duel in the middle of the street – I almost always won once i got the hang of it and if you have played this game you know that really makes you feel like a badass.

This game stands out from the rest of the games of this genre because it not only has all those in-game features but somehow has this strange link to a historical perspective and shows how the tide of time brought about political, industrial and geographical changes in people’s lives.

The sound of the steam engined train and the ability to actually hop on it for a ride, the showcasing of horse-carriages and its slow transition to the very early of mechanical wagon cars, the fading outlaw groups and culture and the ruthless overtaking of a peaceful farm life by more civilized but cunning culture all that makes this game something so much more.

I was overjoyed while playing this game also because it has the perfect balance between fun and difficulty. This game gives you full control so as what to do next. If you are stressed out you can simply ride off to relax and not do any of game quests, just enjoy the sunset and rivers and the glorious beauty of the wild west but while you are at it, it also gives you a sense of reality as foxes, cougars, boars, snakes can attack you if you are in their proximity or territory. So yes you can ride off but you cannot escape the fact and dangers that comes along with the freedom of wilderness. That reminds me the animals and other npc are very well programmed as the animals show their natural behavior like not foolishly staying around after hearing a gunshot, horses actually neigh upon hearing a gunshot and try to run away same goes for animals, if you are out of shots and stop firing the foxes will try to come after you in a group, strangers run for their life even when you just point your gun at them, bears..well bears don’t care they just charge at you regardless., what I mean is this game feels every bit of realistic and actually makes it like you were just dropped in the wild west for real.

What can I say about the landscape it left me speechless. The environment actually flips from day and night and the starry night sky is as breathtaking as the glowing sunrise or setting sun shown beautifully. Heavy thunderstorm, rainfall or a slight drizzle leaves the land with potholes and stepping on pool of water or wet mud gives that unique damp sound, the sound and music and rustle of the rain felt so real to me i could smell the rain. Things look majestic from hilltop and if you zoom in with your sniper you can actually see or shoot people or wildlife distant away. Initially there are mostly deserts with small town settlements but gradually you get to explore other lands, Mexico in particular has twisty roads and gives you the feel that you are in a different country than from where you began just by the landscape itself. There are pine trees and snowy landscape equally beautiful that comes later in the game and perhaps the tallest structure is located there at the snows. The snowy peaks and forests below it are home to bears and if you ever face one of them while you are not mounted on your horseback, have no doubt they will remind you of the movie revenant that won Leo an Oscar. Man those bears are ferocious. The only thing more ferocious in the game is the water as neither Marston nor any horses can apparently swim, if you go too deep even waist deep in the waters you DIE !!. That was so frustrating and actually should make me deduct a point or two from the game but the awesomeness that the rest of the stuffs in the game provide simply made me give it a ten outa ten, I accept being a bit favorable here as its a genre I love.

I almost forgot to talk about the character development itself. You have choices or skills to explore as well. Any hunting you do as shooting birds or boars and skinning them…arrgh the skinning part, let me stop right there. As done in most modern games , in this game too anything you hunt or kill you actually have to loot a dead body or skin a dead bird/animal to get the actual loots out of it. But RDD actually shows or tries to give that feel of looting or skinning a corpse by a neat (no pun intended) animation. Some really like this while some hate the messy blood gouging animation while skinning. I personally did not mind it as I loved hearing Marston utter some phrase often in context to the hunt. So as i was saying you have a separate progress for your hunting skills which you can level up by meeting the requirements of the hunting challenges, same goes for sharpshooter and survival skills. Survival skills basically involve collecting wildflowers and plants which I did not progress much as it was the least fun of the three for me. As per character customization is concerned you only get to choose different outfits for your character all of which is unlockable from gameplay itself and no any DLC’s are required. I really cannot appreciate or thank rockstar enough for that. Some outfits even came with some added benefits like wearing a gang outfit would cause outlaws from that gang to be friendly towards you or wearing a suit gave you ability to be able to cheat on poker. I could go on and on about many such features as rockstar has given attention to every tiniest bit of details and made the game so much fun.

[SPOILERS AHEAD – Only read if you have already finished the game, which you definitely should before the RDR II gets released ]

Coming to the story of the game itself. Every time I hit a milestone or killed some important target I felt like boy is the game over?! I felt happy and sad at the same time for reaching that stage or clearing the game, I began to rethink and relive the game and just when i was about to drop the joystick with a heavy heart the game surprised me and it continued and i was full of joy getting to know i get to play more of this gem justifying the fact that i was not fulfilled yet. This happened on three different occasions. First when I finally got to kill the leader of Marston’s past gang, seeing how he suicide dives from the cliff has a whole other philosophy and meaning as he parts with words of wisdom I shall not spoil the game too much by saying it out here. There I thought the game is over but nope, no Sire more awesomeness ahead. Next was when Marston actually dies!! I could not believe how the main character of the story gets rounded up and after defending it from all the soldiers invading his peaceful home, hardly enabling his wife and son escape, you actually lose control to a cutscene where you can do nothing but helplessly watch as john Marston more so ‘you’ have no choice but to get rained with bullets. The heavy breathing and gasping of Marston as his lungs fill with blood , it was at this moment I realized that this game was a masterpiece and a timeless classic. At this point I once again sighed and thought how lucky I was that I got to play this unrealistically realistic game and wondered when the next part of the game will be launched. But Then aaaa..again ohhh wait the game actually didn’t end there..all hail rockstar!! The story actually rocketed years past and you were in control of a young cowboy, an outlaw, the son of the legend John Marston, set to take revenge of his father’s murder. Even as i galloped on as Jack Marston, the son, I didn’t fully believe that the game was still on and would actually allow me to play the rest of the storyline. I honestly thought this was for another part but little did I know how gracious rockstar is that you actually get a final confrontation with the Bureau Officer that made it all happen, you duel with the main villain and leave him dead by the banks of the river while he was fishing. For the first time in a game I actually went up to a corpse and actually emptied the revolver not out of whim but out of frustration on how unjustly John Marston’s ending got played. For me, John will always the the main character of RDR.

[NO SPOILERS ONWARD – SPOILERS ENDED]

If there is any game that claims an in-game experience that makes you feel like you actually were the character in game, and makes the wild west fantasy come to life, then it is red dead redemption for me.

Now that RDR II has already been announced but without John Marston as the main character, I am a little bit upset but however very thrilled to see how the sequel/prequel of this solid game is going to be. I hope it can bring the same nostalgia and classy feeling that RDR first did.

Dilemmas of Design – Graphics and Web

After all these years having worked as a web and graphics designer, I can finally jot down the following words not just as a matter of opinion but as a conclusion of keen observation, quite a bunch of failed experiences and a few yet motivating successes made so far.

 

Design is fundamental to existence. Anything from an atom to an entire galaxy has a structure but without a proper design a structure cannot last. Structure and design go hand in hand to create and give form and makes something exist. It is also due to this very fundamental nature that anyone and everyone is somehow a designer. Everyone knows their favorite color or the clothes that they believe best suits them, designer sunglasses, favorite coffee mug, cars or bikes, jewelries, scenery and other objects depending on the areas of interest. Just the fact that these choices depend and vary from person to person illustrates that everyone has a designer’s eye in them. And that my friend is exactly what complicates and makes things so much more difficult and challenging for us, the professional Designers – in web or graphics.

 

From this very analogy, I find programming or a developers job much less of a nuisance because thankfully for them not everyone is a programmer as it involves calculation, logic building and computer language – tasks primarily associated with the brain and has to be trained for, which is why no client or a person from a different field can or dares to give their opinion on that matter.

But designing is more instinctive or natural and involves also the heart and not just the brain. And we all know that when it comes to the human heart, it simply gets so much complicated as there is no limit, logic or bounds to it. Ask any graphic designer and he/she will admit to have received suggestions on their work during the phases of their career from clients, peers, superiors, juniors, interns, friends, staffs, parents,… strangers, their pet,.. well you get what I mean. I mean show a design to anyone with a set of eye and the set immediately becomes a critique, love it or hate it but everyone will have some thing to add or remove more often than less. This also brings to the fact that if you cannot handle constructive criticism or even any criticism of your work, designing definitely is not your cup of tea. It is in design where the problem often is not the lack of idea but too many ideas to begin with. But with that said how do you channel this possibly disorienting phenomenon to a more positive outcome and bring the best out of your creation? Because as a designer your job is not only to make the product/creation work but make it aesthetically pleasing for the end user while it works.

 

The answer although not that simple, is a professional or a future designer in making should be able to take all those inputs, weigh in the feedbacks while processing with a designer’s knowledge base, sort out how much of those varying opinions fall into a common category and let the valuable ones affect your work and others to simply ignore. Summing it up in simple words – filter, add and/or ignore.

 

Work on a design and leave the work for an hour or so and work on something else, come and look back at the result of the work you left that you earlier created and you will see a much clearer version of it and it will be so much easier to deduce wether it is good or if any flaws are existent on it. Show it to a peer, they often will point out something that you might not. One of my mentor once said to me – It is very difficult for a designer to find flaw in their own design because for most artist their art is flawless in their own eyes. Which is why feedback from another professional of the same field can actually be very fruitful.

 

Feedback from a non-professional or one from a different field can also be fruitful as it helps you deduce how the end result looks to the common eye. Wether you designed something too intricate for a normal user or perhaps the design simply does not captures a users interest as you thought it would. Small things like changing a font or the color tone might have drastic effect on the final design hence end user testing is also a must and limitless as in every other software development process.

 

The client’s feedback – mostly when you design for any client, the end user is actually the client’s client and although you are the designer, the client would better know his client base and the market and after all it’s his financial risk or his brand identity to prosper or diminish, so if a client has something specific that is to be changed or added or removed from the design, feel obligated to do so but do not hesitate to drop an advice or a polite suggestion if you feel the change is way too disastrous for the final design or as to hamper your own portfolio image. A silver tongue may come as a blessing at these moments when you can convince the client or the critique the changes you deem unnecessary  are indeed so, but that might not always be fruitful as the end result after deployment will speak the truth of the matter and in that scenario you will be even more to blame.

 

The dilemma, of course is to what degree do we let these changes and feedbacks affect our work. Because more often than so we find that the finished product becomes an entirely different one from when we started or envisioned it to be as it goes through the numerous rounds of feedbacks and suggestions from every other direction.

 

My suggestion on that is,

One has to polish their skills and grow confident enough to accurately figure out what are they creating, for whom are they creating and what impact their creation is supposed to have on the intended users.

It is only then, when one can efficiently decide which of those critiques are to be considered and which to be neglected.

There is also the matter of scope of work, philosophy and responsibility where you ought to balance the degree of impact of the feedbacks on your work and not let it be a copy of something else, something horrendous. However, there are also times when you simply get the job done for the pay cheque following every steps requested by the client – because this field also incorporates a popular motto – ‘the client is always right ‘.With that said, at the end, what degree of freedom one should allow themselves while working on their design is solely dependent  on the designers themselves and how they want the project to turn out.

 

You can always choose to ditch a project or client that takes the passion out of the work or to carry on to simply get the job done. I myself have done both and seen similar examples with people on different fields of work. Neither choice will make you any less of a professional though. Because being professional means both to be able to continuing to work despite unfavorable circumstances and also to have the self confidence to call it off when one’s dignity is on the line. And if you ever feel like knowing or self evaluating how good you are at your work – the answer is in how often you have to make one of these choices all the while wanting to make the other.

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