Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Best and Worst Vacation Destinations

It's almost the end of summer. This year, I hadn't had the opportunity (nor desire, sadly) to actually leave the house and venture somewhere exciting so I was inspired (by Caraniel's Ramblings) to think of a few fictional universes that I'd be more than happy to rent out a summer villa in. But first, let's highlight an honorable mention.

Ah, the not-so-humble wonder of the Gintama-universe in all of its aberration-addled glory. Is it that I'm too much of a stuck-up reality-hugger to give this world a chance? Quite the opposite. Kabuki-cho isn't a place I'd like to visit, as much as carve out a dwelling of my own in.

Remember all of those disillusioned movie-goers who slipped into severe bouts of depression after seeing Avatar and realizing that their lives were as mundane as chicken stock compared to the mesmerizing world of Pandora? Tragic, really. If only that escapist part of their brains hadn't long-since withered into a dreary lump of cynicism. While I can't speak for anyone else, I know for a fact that so long as I continue to fantasize about frolick-y getaways to the Yorozuya's doorstep, that jolly little utopia that only exists inside of James Cameron's head can suck my Lake Toya.
Places I'd like to visit

Kino's Journey
This one's a bit iffy, which is why it comes in last place. There are requirements that would have to be met before I'd embark on a Walk-the-Earth journey akin to the one that Kino herself is on. Most of them concerning my safety and well-being, of course.

That being said, I'd be perfectly content with taking a page from Kino's book and simply observing each town I encounter. And I'd probably stick to the three-day rule as well so as to not dawdle in any place that may be paradise on the surface but is in actuality some sort of bizarre Epiphanic Prison. Kino's world is so rich in pressing philosophical and/or existential crises' that it's hard to not give it a try, just to stoke some intellectual deliberation. As the motto of the series purports: The world is not beautiful, therefore it is.

Daikoku City
(Dennou Coil)
As an aspiring engineer massively interested in the potential and growth of ubiquitous computing, Dennou Coil's computerized architectural landscape is as breathtaking as any one of the wonders of the world. Some may see Daikoku City as a macabre monstrosity i.e. irrefutable proof of why co-habitating with technology will only result in a parasitic relationship akin to spousal abuse, but I see it as the rough alpha build of a promising engineering marvel.

Anti-virus dolls prowl the streets, errant bits of information evolve into gargantuan, ghastly lifeforms, and secret societies seek to tame the raw, organic life that technology has morphed into. This is augmented reality at its finest; a haunting, crystalline metropolis that's every bit as frightening as it is fascinating.

Land of Kanan
(Eureka Seven)
Now, this is how you take advantage of that huge blue ceiling we call the sky. While the actual landscape of Kanan is empty (and the sky as well for that matter by virtue of being, well, the sky), I honestly don't know how much of my life I'd waste just skysurfing day-in and day-out.

I'm one of those insane people who loved the sailing portions of Wind Waker and found galloping through the canyons of Shadow of the Colossus cathartic and immersive so the sparse desolation of Eureka Seven's world doesn't really bug me too much. Just give me a ref-board, LFO appreciated, but optional, and my feet would never feel the need to touch the ground ever again.

I have a thing for sprawling fantasy adventures and even more so for their settings. Just the sheer size of the world, with its many kingdoms, towns, and provinces splashed with historical beauty, is enough to suck me in. Naturally, you'd think that I would have a hard time I had choosing one but Moribito's crisp, watercolor-esque grandeur leaves everything else in the dust. Well, except maybe Twelve Kingdoms.

Okami is my favorite video game of all time and Moribito has been the only series capable of replicating the bewildering scope, depth, and splendor of its world. Both worlds have this elusive sense of tranquility to them, as if while traveling the land, you were encouraged to just pause, breathe in the air, and take in every single little detail as if you were delicately painting the horizon in your mind's eye.


Water, water, everywhere. Aria is THE poster-child when it comes to scenic series' and an outstanding visual tour de force, so seeing Neo-Venezia at the top spot on my vacation agenda should be no surprise.

The unusual thing about Neo-Venezia is that while it's obviously a strikingly beautiful city guaranteed to make at least one of your senses orgasm every time your gondola turns a corner, it's not that rich in specific landmarks, barring the waterways. It's actually quite humble in that respect. Aria is all about simple, natural, understated beauty with a dusting of fantasy and the enchanting atmosphere alone is enough to leave me in a sort of nirvanic, droopy-eyed trance.

Places I wouldn't like to visit

This list was significantly more difficult to compose than the favorites list. Remember, we're talking about a visit, so no matter how Crapsack a world might be, its cosmic horrors might not have even incubated by the time your bags are packed for the return flight. Keeping that in mind, these next five worlds are places I wouldn't even be caught near. And of course, I'll be taking atmosphere into consideration as well, not just the lay of the land.

Because nothing interesting ever happens there.

Fuyuki City
(Fate stay/night)

Okay, we get it. The battlefield of the Holy Grail war is sterile and barren as a no man's land should be. But there's no reason why it should feel so unnervingly empty. Despite being a full-fledged city, the place is as lifeless as a ghost town that's been polished to a silvery sheen...which makes the city all the more uninviting. Seriously, the crisp, sleek perfection of every structure and landmark pushes Fuyuki City off the edge into the Uncanny Valley, like something straight out of The Twilight Zone. Trying the leave would probably result in crashing headfirst into the glass bottle surrounding the bloody place.

Oh yeah, and there's the danger of getting wrapped up in the war itself, being one of the handful of residents in a sprawling concrete prison that's home to a free-for-all cagematch. The prospect of meeting incarnations of historical/mythological warriors is cool, but the possibility of getting puree'd by a thousand magical blades makes me want to take Shiro's advice and just Fate/stay in the kitchen for the duration of my hypothetical vacation.

Claymore shows us the ugly side of medieval fantasy. From the moment I set foot in any unsuspecting inn, I'd only be a second away from possibly getting torn to shreds by a pack of lumbering, grotesque abominations. Inn Security? What Inn Security? We're talking about a place where even one's dearly beloved could be secretly swallowed up by a passing youma and replaced by said demon wearing said dearly-beloved's recently-discarded flesh. How's that for Paranoia Fuel?

There are no safe havens here as the only thing stopping even a single measly youma from razing an entire village is a silver-eyed amazon warrior busting in and saving the day. Here's the catch: only a handful of them even exist and there's an entire bloody continent to cover. In other words, don't get your hopes up.

(Higurashi no Naku Koro ni)

Unsettlingly enough, Hinamizawa is based off a real town in the Gifu prefecture in Japan called Shirakawa. Those brave enough to pay said village a visit in June during any sort of festival-Cotton Drifting or otherwise-have won my respect.

While the chances are slim that I'd be “spirited away” by a vengeful curse, clubbed by a baseball bat, or sashimi'd by a cleaver, the unceasing, eerie buzz of those damn cicadas coupled with the general spookiness of the town would probably cause my paranoia to skyrocket, thus resulting in a grisly death by self-inflicted fingernail-Tracheotomy.

Wolf's Rain
Honestly, could a sprawling, dystopian wasteland possibly be any bleaker? It's like if you took Fallout 3, turned off the sun, and placed an unambiguously evil baddie as the head harbinger of the apocalypse.

Wolf's Rain's world just sucks. Even if you're a supernatural wolf it still sucks, 'cos you're on the verge of extinction and finding Paradise requires more faith and tenacity than the first step Indy took on that divine bridge in Last Crusade. But that's as a wolf. As a human, the only thing to do besides hit up sleazy bars is go on a snipe hunt for wolves, all the while coming to grips with how futile your existence is. At least it makes my vacation, that is, eternal huddling up in front of my monitor, seem positively cheerful in comparison.

Darker than Black
A world so grim that it's darker than black. When the name of a series boldly touts a prospect so Beyond the Impossible, it's a pretty safe bet that you won't feel at home in its universe.

While Contractor powers are pretty neat and creative, most Contractors are painted as not just mere outcasts, but martyrs, no matter how Cursed With Awesome they may be. No matter what path in life you're headed down, what societal role you fulfill or even which shadowy amoral organization you work for, the future has never been so devoid of hope. Darker than Black's world is the apocalypse come early; humanity's darkest hour fully realized.

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