Thursday, April 18, 2013

Humming the Hybrid Jive

It seems hybrid cars have become commonplace on Malaysian roads of late, and it's not hard to see why. The tax exemption and fuel savings meant that the public are able to purchase cheaper full-spec-ed cars that save money on the long run. One such model that has been seeing brisk sales is the Honda Jazz Hybrid. First launched in mid-2012, the popular hatch received the CKD treatment later that year, of which I managed to test drive recently.

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First impressions are everything and for a design that saw roots back in 2007, the Honda Jazz is still quite a looker in the metal.

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The modern, flowing lines and unfussy details certainly withstood the test of time. The Hybrid differentiates itself from the regular model with stylish blue-tinted front and rear headlamps, the latter of which is a rather cool clear LED-type. 


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It also gets new bumpers that are more aerodynamically efficient and a chrome license plate garnish at the rear.

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Step inside, and you're greeted with an airy and spacious interior. Generous amounts of glass (including front and rear quarter-windows) do wonders in achieving this. Everything looks thoroughly modern and the funkiness of it all hides its true age. Interior is mostly hard plastic (with fabric bits) but everything feels solidly made. 

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The audio system, while not exactly the best in class, serves its purpose well, with multiple connectivity options like Bluetooth, iPod and MP3. 

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Songs from my SCANDAL MP3 collection played wonderfully, perhaps mostly due to the fact that the car is rather silent on the move. 

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The car also has auto climate control, which was always welcome.

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Practicality is the name of the game and the Jazz Hybrid has it in droves. There are no less than ten cup holders and more storage compartments than you can shake a stick at (there are two for the glove box alone!). 

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It comfortably seats a family of five with no effort. The signature 'ULTRA seats' add to the usefulness, being able to fold either backwards to carry tall items inside or forwards-flat to double up available boot space. 

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However, my test unit had one seat stuck in regular position for some reason. The IPU (Intelligent Power Unit) goes underneath the boot floor, in place of the spare wheel. Instead, one gets a tyre repair kit.

Many questioned me regarding how the Jazz Hybrid drove. The car is powered by a 1.3 litre i-VTEC engine coupled with an electric motor. 

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The system, dubbed IMA (Integrated Motor Asist), in fact is carried over from the Insight. Many cited the CVT transmission coupled with the hybrid power train would yield a rather dull ride. I would like to however, quash these rumours. The car was comfortable and responsive to drive, even with the 'ECON' mode on. 

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How do I know this? Well, after zipping the car through town and onto on the highway I wanted to give the mode a try - and to my surprise, it was enabled all along! While I agree it could do with a little more power, I'd like to state that it was nowhere near as lethargic as some have said. 

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What it does is configure the car to run as economically as possible, by limiting excessive revs and I believe this should prove useful for city driving through lots of traffic.

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Those familiar with Honda hybrids will also recognise the eco-scoring function, which rewards you with graphical ‘leaves’ if you drive economically.

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 This can be obtained easily if you pay attention to the speedometer, which depending on how you drive, changes from blue to green, with the latter being the most fuel-efficient. 

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I gleefully managed a score of four and a half (out of five) leaves.

As with most hybrid vehicles, the engine switches off during stops to conserve energy. This does however, also meant the air-conditioning might lose its cool, but it wasn't really that bad in my case. 


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The Jazz Hybrid is also able to run on full-electric mode (EV) with the engine shut off (albeit occasionally). I managed to achieve this usually by cruising at a constant speed of around 20-40km/h. Again this might prove most useful possibly during city cruising.

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Switch off the 'ECON' mode, and things start getting exciting. While the fuel-saving CVT transmission meant it didn't have the best engine tune, but it wasn't at all dull. 

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Having a hybrid motor assisting the engine meant that almost turbo-like swift acceleration could be achieved even at higher speeds, which was undoubtedly something I never expected in a hybrid vehicle. 

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It felt like it was running a 1.6 or larger engine. The car didn't disappoint handling-wise either. While certainly no sports car, it was still perky and kept all the good points of the regular Jazz. 

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However it would have been better if the car retained the paddle-shifters and auto-cruise, both of which were omitted on the locally-built model.

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Going for RM89,900 on the road, the Malaysian-made Honda Jazz Hybrid is the cheapest hybrid car on the market and certainly an attractive option for those who want to save the environment, yet retaining the practicality of a conventional hatchback. 

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Overall I must say the car truly surprised me, and wouldn’t mind living with one myself (with the optional edgy-looking spoiler added-on). However if you have the cash to spare, I would definitely recommend you top-up the extra RM5k and get the Japanese CBU model, which in addition to the paddle-shifters and auto-cruise, also comes with four extra airbags (that makes six!), all-round disc brakes, one touch lane change, Hill Start Assist, automatic wipers, steering audio controls and of course that lovely shade of green.

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Specifications
Honda Jazz Hybrid CKD
Engine: 1,339cc, single cam, i-VTEC + IMA
Maximum power: 98bhp at 6,000rpm
Maximum torque: 127Nm at 4,800rpm
Electric motor maximum power: 10hp
Electric motor maximum torque: 78Nm
Battery: Nickel metal hydride
Transmission: CVT
Suspension: MacPherson struts (front) and torsion beam axle (rear)
Features: Twin SRS airbags, front and rear seatbelts 3-point ELR, vehicle stability assist, anti-lock braking system, electronic brake-force distribution, Multi Information Display (MID), power retractable door mirrors, tilt & telescopic steering (electric powered), auto climate control air-conditioning, ULTRA seats, rear underseat box, reverse sensors, AM/FM CD player with AUX/USB/iPod support
Price: RM89,900 (OTR with insurance)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Against All Odds

A movie set in the events of 2004's Boxing Day tsunami - some may deem it to be of bad taste as it is still fresh in the minds of those who suffered the devastation. The Impossibles however, is based on a true account of one family's harrowing experience facing the full force of nature's wrath.


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The story focuses mainly around Maria and Henry Bennett (Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor respectively) and their three children. 

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While enjoying their Christmas holiday trip in Thailand they are separated after suddenly getting hit by brutal wall of seawater. 

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The filmmakers did a remarkable job recreating the destruction of the disaster. You get a real sense of actually being in the midst of it all with water, bricks, trees, cars and all forms of debris thrown in your face (and your body) flung in all directions with disturbingly painful consequences. The result is an experience which is truly chair-clingingly horrifying, which gives you a rough idea how traumatising it must have been for the victims.

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The acting was excellent, and you'll find yourself cheering them on and crying in despair with them. Watts certainly outdid herself this time - seeing her wounded and dying yet clinging on to life for the sake of her son, it’s easy to see how she received an Academy Award nomination for the role. 

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McGregor also put on one of his better performances, and you could feel his emotions as he searches on for his family despite it being seemingly futile. 

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One to watch would be newcomer Tom Holland, who plays eldest son Lucas. His performance of a boy unwillingly having to shoulder the responsibilities of a grown-up is easily one of the most genuinely emotive highlights in the movie.

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Through the traumatic experience the family endures, you’ll come to realise that it isn’t the tsunami itself that is deemed impossible, but rather the aftermath. Gripping, emotionally-exhausting and relentless, The Impossibles is quite definitely the biggest surprise we’ve seen this early into 2013.



4.5 out of 5 Stars

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Review of 2012 - The Year That Was...

Time flies, it really does... Too soon we bid farewell to 2012, the year dubbed by some to be our very last. But here we are at 2013, and since quite a lot of things happened in the past year, perhaps I should sum it up in a post.

Year of New Starts
I finalised moving into my own place this year (although I started living there late 2011), and 2012 saw me truly calling it home.

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While living on my own gave some form of freedom and flexibility, it also posed its own set of challenges. For instance, I don't think I've ever cooked so much on my own before! xD 

Year of Unions
I found 2012 to truly be the year of weddings, with many family members and friends tying the knot. Two cousins got married, my childhood close friend Azahir tied the knot, and so did my former best buddy at work Irene. In fact so many more got married, Mukhsie, Jenster, Arty... oh gosh.

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And I also became an uncle as two of my cousins had their firstborns in December. However 2012 was also a year of loss, for my paternal grandma also passed away peacefully. In a way the family felt relieved, as she didn't have to suffer anymore and is in a better place now. I also received news that a childhood friend of mine passed away in road accident.

Year of Work
Job-wise I was transferred to a different division. While daunting at first, it is a job-scope more familiar to me, and as some say I adapted to it like fish to water. Took me some time to get used to the house style, so my first piece was this slightly awkward one below.

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I also admit I got along better with my colleagues and friends at work, and sadly also saw some of them leave.

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Also got posted to the company's Shah Alam branch for a month (cut short from the proposed three months) to work on Flavours magazine. I must say it was an interesting experience, as I was working with a different group of people. It was also refreshing working for a magazine for a change as it posed new challenges and obstacles as well as different form of expression.

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While work came with its usual ups and downs, I hope to stay positive and continue knocking down barriers and challenges. Late 2012 I got a chance to work on a mock-up of an upcoming revamp, so here's hoping everything flows smoothly in 2013.

Year of Wheels
The year also saw me being introduced to Aquileia, a 122bhp Ford Fiesta Sport which saw me wait four months for her arrival.

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So long in fact, that I placed an order for the sexy new 2012 Hyundai Elantra.

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But when she finally arrived, as the last of only 10 Aurora Blue units in the country, it was love at first sight. The rest as they say was history. Finally got the old family-kept number plate transferred. For the first time in almost three decades, it was on my own car.

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She's my first all-new car, bodykitted and tinted from the factory and deco-ed with my own custom racing stripes a week after delivery.

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Her arrival also meant I had to bid farewell to Alexandra, my trusty 2.0L twin-spark Alfa Romeo 155 of 8 years. It was sad letting go of her after all these years, but she is now in the hands of one who really loves Alfas, so I'm quite glad.

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Having Aquileia also meant I was more active with a different car community, and truthfully said, I had a ball of a time knowing the peeps of Fiesta Owners Community (FOC) and Fiesta Fan Club Malaysia (FFC). We had numerous fun outings, trips and TT sessions.

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The highlight of which I believed was a track day involving both groups, which was just so much fun! We certainly tore up the track in Malacca!



That's me at the 1:33 mark~

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Having Aquileia truly changed things, while she gave me a taste of modern, sporty motoring, she also introduced me to an entire family. And that was quite a blessing!

Year of Photo-shoots
I was immensely more active photo-taking-wise this year, which I believe is a good thing. Managed to take part in two shoots, which could have been more if not for my oddball work schedule. Both were with the versatile Avril, who simply makes any shot beautiful.

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However, in terms of photography I was WAY more active with cosplay-related events, which I shall elaborate in abit. Here's hoping there will be more shoots to participate in this year!

Year of Portable Computing
Speaking of photos, my uploads have been getting lesser, and my backlog growing. This was mostly due to my aging PC, which is actually the same base unit I have been using since college days. It has been upgraded numerous times and overhauled twice so that it would have continued service. However it crashed so often and was really unable to handle the file sizes of my D5000's photos. One day the main hard drive just gave way and I had to finally change to a new system, and instead I chose to have a portable one. It was quite a hard decision, on one hand I wanted more power, but seeing how archaic my former system was, I was sure any modern unit would be sufficient. And so I got the Lenovo Y480, which was equipped with an i7 quad-core processor, back-lit keyboard, four USB 3.0 slots and a bucketload of RAM. It even has a heat-sink to handle the heat it produces. Perfect.

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Managed to learn how to hook it up to my TV and enjoyed streaming the Olympics live (especially diving!) and also enhanced computing with a 42-inch screen.

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Now all I hope to do is to finish clearing my backlogs before the next major event comes!

Year of Concerts
2012 is also the year which I attended the most concerts. I mean seriously, it was like all the cool artistes wanted to perform here this year. There were too many in fact, that I had to skip some due to lack of funds. Video Games Live finally returned to our shores, and I managed to attend with friends this time around. The most memorable thing was actually getting to meet Tommy Tallarico and Laura Intravia and actually pass them a copy of the photo we took together back in 2010. The look on Laura's face was priceless, along with the scream after. Got my VGL album signed by them after that :)

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OK the last photo wasn't related but I wanted to post it anyway~ :P After that there was MTV World Stage, which has been returning each year of late. Pulled along my new buddy Li Ann to the concert. This year everyone's making a fuss because Justin Bieber was attending. But for me it was clearly KARA's first performance in Malaysia! There weren't many songs but I was just happy to see them perform live here. And I gladly report they sound just like in the album in the flesh!

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Next up was the Wonder Girls' second full-blown concert in Malaysia. As a huge fan it was certainly an event not to be missed, and while I didn't quite like the new venue as much as Genting Arena of Stars, it was the performance that mattered. The girls brought the roof down and even surprised everyone by performing in baju kurung for some songs.

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In November was Distant Worlds' inaugural performance here. I would have totally missed this if not for Mei Ling, who was really up-to-date regarding the concert. It was so funny that we were rushing to buy tickets in the wee hours of the morning to avoid missing out. Needless to say we both enjoyed it. I must say the performance was truly breathtaking and there was just something about having all your favourite Final Fantasy hits played by the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra. Fantastic!

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Last but not least was SCANDAL's first showcase on Malaysian soil! As a big fan I couldn't believe it when it was announced that they were coming, and it just got better as my friends from Rentak Sejuta allowed me to cover the concert on their behalf. You could imagine the fanboy in me geeking out yet trying to keep it in in order to secure proper photographs. And yeah, the girls actually sounded better live than on the albums... how about that?

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And oh, lead singer Haruna even liked the photo I posted on Instagram!!! *cries of joy*

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My blog post on the concert became my fastest climbing entry, giving my blog a sudden spike in hits. Seriously I haven't seen this level of hits since my Myvi Extreme review sometime back, and even that was nowhere close.

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A shorter version of my blog entry also became my first full article in The Star. Yup, a proper article instead of the usual thumbnails I've been contributing. And probably one of the few local printed articles with the band name spelled in uppercase like they should. Wished there was more space for photos though.

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SCANDAL's concert was truly something memorable to me, I'm so glad to be supporting them. Speaking of blogging, I was much more active this year than the last two years or so, which I guess is a good thing. Saw more international visitors thanks to reviews on movies and also the SCANDAL concert, with some giving feedback, which I appreciate. Hope to continue this trend in 2013.

Year of Gaming
2012 also saw a full revival of my gaming spirit, and I was playing on multiple platforms. It all started with Black Rock Shooter - The Game, which was on the PSP platform. I purchased the limited-edition Premium box (which came with Figma White Rock Shooter) from Amiami when it suddenly went on 50% discount. Chong was kind enough to lend me his PSP for me to play it.

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Soon after I received Fall of Cybertron as a birthday gift from my mum, and thus there was more gaming on the PlayStation 3.

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That was of course in between playing Final Fantasy XIII (with the oh-so-gorgeous Lightning!), which I am probably one of the last to actually start playing. Don't even mention about FFXIII-2!

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My dad got me a PlayStation Vita for my birthday and while I got myself Gravity Rush as part of a package deal, it was Ragnarok Odyssey that really got me hooked on gaming this year. And yes, Aquileia was originally my RO character name.

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The game-play was fast-paced and very addictive. So addictive in fact, that I was often teaming up with random foreigners, most of which were from Hong Kong, Korea or Japan. They helped a lot with the bigger bosses and harder levels.

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I defeated Loki and won the game within the month, but the amount of bonus levels meant playtime is quite extended. I must say this is one of the more awesome releases this year.

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I changed to an iPhone 4S mid-year, and that also saw me play numerous random mobile games as well.

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I must say looking back at what I played in 2012 made me astonished myself.

Year of Anime
Other than gaming, 2012 saw a full revival of anime watching for me. True it has been on the rise the year before, but this year, thanks to Yoake-chan I started watching Accel World, and I was totally hooked, finishing all available subbed episodes in two days and watching each subbed episode as they are uploaded each week, approximately a week after airing in Japan.


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This meant a start to me catching current anime, instead of watching them as they are completed. I mean, how can one not love Kuroyukihime?

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Upon discovering its relation to Accel World, I caught Sword Art Online, perhaps the biggest anime of 2012.

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I caught episode one hot off the subs and patiently awaited each episode as they went online every Saturday.



I totally loved the story and the designs of both these anime and I rate them highly if you're looking for something to watch.

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There was action, storyline, drama and romance. I believed it made for a complete and fulfilling watch, albeit slightly rushed in some parts. And oh, Asuna was like the true-blue 'dream girl'~!

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Then there was Girls und Panzer, which was brilliant. Kawaii girls piloting bad-ass 3D tanks, how much cooler can it get? It also helped that it had such amazing direction.


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The intro scene alone was enough to get me hooked...



And not forgetting this song I love so much from the anime...



2012 also saw the launch of the anime version of Black Rock Shooter, which saw a few changes, new characters and bad-ass 3D weaponry.

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And oh, Hatsune Miku sang the opening theme of course.



Other animes I caught included Guilty Crown...


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...well, 90% because of Inori of course...

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...and Busou Shinki, which was actually pretty cool. Especially the Strarf model~ xD


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There are also other animes I watched in between but not yet completed, like the second season of Toaru Majutsu no Index and new season of Fate: Stay Night. I believe 2013 will see more interesting titles in store.

Year of Cosplays and Conventions
If you've actually stayed to read till this far, I truly salute you, as I have saved my favourite for last. Having watched more anime this year also meant a heightened appreciation for cosplay-related events, so 2012 also marked the most ACG (anime, comics and games)-related conventions and events I have attended in a single year. Earlier in the year I attended Cybertron Con at Singapore, which marked my first time attending a Transformers convention.

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Later in May was my third time attending C2AGE, which was held at Tropicana City Mall. I could only drop by briefly for the first 2 days but I was there to fully soak up the occasion on day 3. Needless to say I had a ball of a time. I even managed to introduce my big sis colleague Shoba and her hubby to the culture of Japanese anime.

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Also had yummy lunch with Klei-chan and tsun-Anne, who are so gonna kill me for not uploading the photos till now.

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In June came the inaugural AFA MY (Anime Festival Asia - Malaysia), which came as a surprise to many, as it has always been held exclusively in Singapore all this while. Having another international-scale ACG event in the country certainly liven up things, and it was truly a memorable occasion.

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And oh, I managed to meet Danny Choo up close! He was shooting videos next to me and I just managed to strike a short conversation with him.

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In August was Animangaki, and since it was held at Sunway Pyramid this time I decided to give it a go. The turnout was surprisingly good and despite me only being able to attend on the final day, I had lotsa fun.

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Come November it was of course AFA SG. Having denied my leave the year before, I secured my days two months in advance. This was only my second AFA event after my 2010 'back to Singapore' stint, and this time I had Loon, Esther, Desmond and his buddies for company. Needless to say it was a truly memorable experience, especially on the last day which saw me lug my metallic red luggage case around the convention.

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Finally of course, was Comic Fiesta. Bigger than ever before, this time it spanned so many halls that many friends didn't even get to see one another! By now I have made so many friends among the community so it was really nice bumping into them and seeing all the effort they put into their cosplays and doujins. It seems everyone put in their heart and soul into this year-end event. This year sis Boonie decided to join in the fun and open her own booth, and Chong shocked everyone coming in a fox suit. It was truly a helluva lot of fun!

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Indeed it was a year to remember ACG-wise. It's always a joy attending these events, and I'm looking forward to many more hours of fun this year! And those of you waiting for your photos, I once again apologise, I'll try to have them up as soon as I can! 

Year of Family
And of course, what would the year be without family? I am blessed to have my family (which has expanded this year!) to share it all with, through thick and thin, and also my friends, some of which I regard as family too.

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And not forgetting four fluffy kitties, one of which would await my return each weekend (yup, dearest adorable Muffin).

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I would write much more, as there was just so much to 2012, but I guess I'll stop here for now. God bless you all, here's to a wonderful and more fulfiling 2013!

PEACE and God Bless,
Aris Tee

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