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Wednesday, April 11, 2012


From my Pol Phil class "notes."
Okay, so this is going to be an "omake" post.  "Omake" is a Japanese term meaning "bonus."  You see it very often on the Japanese speaking parts of the internet.  Western bloggers have also adopted the term for their own use.  It now means "I don't have anything to say, so I'll just throw a bunch of random shit up and hope it sticks."  Such as, explaining the definition of omake.

End of Evangeliffect
A long time ago, I promised I'd write something about Mass Effect 3.  That never happened.  Now it's been too long for me to write down my thoughts completely uninfluenced by the intervening time: the intervening time during which the whole internet bitched about little else but The Ending.  Admittedly, it's not a good ending, but the point has been belabored for so long that it no longer really interests me (if you want a very nice rundown of the technical details why it sucks, this guy's got it covered).  Here's what I do have to say about it, and the one thing I haven't said yet: Mass Effect could never have "ended" well.  Mass Effect's emotional weight - and a good amount of its narrative - was delivered through direct interaction with its world.  For there not to have been at the very least a disappointing break in gameplay, the denouement must in and of itself have been interactive.  A truly fitting ending would have involved Shepard - or someone, anyway, not necessarily Shep - traveling throughout the galaxy and seeing for herself what sort of shape the galaxy was in after the Reapers, and what direction it was heading.  It could be heartbreaking, it could be inspiring, it could bring closure like little else.  As it is, the game was bound to have ended disappointingly, and now Bioware's going to add more cutscenes to fix the ending, which is more likely to induce Return of the King syndrome than anything else.  If Return of the King had originally ended on Mount Doom with Frodo and Sam about to die after destroying The One Ring, and then later, the six other endings were added in the DVD, I'd have been glad to have seen the six other endings, but I'd still have more respect for the version that ended exactly and precisely when it was supposed to.  It'd still function better as a film.

Anyway, everything else has pretty much been said and done.  The only thing that really bugs me about the internet's response - besides the ludicrous entitlement issues that always disappoint but never surprise - is how some people seem to see the "synthesis" ending as giving the Reapers what they want.  The Reapers want to eradicate advanced civilizations and turn them into Reapers so that the next generation of intelligent civilizations may rise.  Nowhere is transhumanism mentioned in this.  Individuality remains intact.  Multiculturalism remains intact.  The only thing that changed was everyone...glows green I guess?  To be perfectly honest, that's the one thing I can say for certain I thought Bioware did brilliantly right: the ending isn't "good Shepard vs jerkass Shepard."  Pretty much all the major choices before came down to "do the ends justify the means:" the Rachni, the Council, the Collector station, winning that game of poker with Adams.  To be honest, that's deeper than most other games ever tread, but it was still rather frustrating at times.  The Ending, however, was much more nuanced.  When I was at that point in the ending, late at night, before it had really sunken in just how stupid the whole Reaper thing really was, I was actually half-way impressed.  Or at least, so it seemed, then it turned out that it didn't actually mean anything, and I joined the rest of the internet in a moment of silent "what the fuck just happened?"

Oh Hey, More Touhou
Okay, so here's something a bit odd: people keep saying that Imperishable Night is the easiest of the Windows Touhou games, but I can still barely complete the game on normal without slow-modo.  On the other hand, Perfect Cherry Blossom is pretty easy for me, yet it's one of the harder ones for the rest of the internet.  I beat it on normal on my first playthrough: that's something you're not supposed to be able to do in a Touhou game.  When it comes to games like this, I'm a firm believer in "if it's not kicking your ass, turn up the difficulty or gtfo."  Perfect Cherry Blossom is still my favorite Touhou game on account of its soundtrack, art, and design, but I do usually end up playing Hard more often than Normal.  I think the internet and I can agree on one thing though: Subterranean Animism is fucking insane.  Like, I-still-haven't-beaten-the-third-stage-boss insane, and it takes several continues sometimes to get through the second.  Then again, I've really only been playing it during D&D while the rest of the party is taking their turn in initiative, or arguing about loot, so it's not like I've had lots of time to practice.

Anyway, I've lately downloaded and been listening to the album Musou Materialise (for some reason, it's always romanized British style) by ShibayanRecords.  I've written about this album's direct predecessor, and I came to the conclusion that, because of the similar natures of the songs, and Shibayan's own style, it didn't bear extended periods of listening.  Musou Materialize does not encounter this problem.  In fact, it's an improvement in almost every possible way, sounding like what you might expect the love-child of Justice and Daft Punk to sound like, except Japanese.  I am not going to detail it here, but if you like Justice, Daft Punk, Touhou, or all three, then definitely check it out.  The funkiness is overwhelming (and unlike Justice, not as likely to be confused for broken stereo equipment).

Stripe Pattern in a nutshell.  (image rights
belong to him, 訴えないでください)
I still mean to do that article on Touhou doujin manga, but I still have not had the time I wanted.  I shall likely not have that sort of time until school lets out.  This is a shame, since recently, the man known only as SMS Skull 1 got me turned onto an artist called Stripe Pattern.  He has a very distinctive style of art and storytelling that bears further analysis.  While manga - especially, it seems, Touhou manga - is generally quite expressionistic, Stripe Pattern takes it up to a new level.  Moreover, he always has very interesting insights into previously ill-examined characters.  I'm tempted to make Battle Cry required reading or something, for when I do write that article.  Looking at the touhouwiki archives, it looks like KafkaFuura had a hand in translating some of these.  I'll have to ask him about it: some of these translations definitely feel very loose, as if the original made use of lots of double entendre and meaning that didn't quite translate literally.  Not that the dialog is particularly necessary in some of these works.

Ender's Publicist
So, filming of Gavin Hood's adaptation of Orson Scott Card's seminal SciFi novel Ender's Game began at the end of February, in New Orleans.  I don't know what's in New Orleans that they specifically need to shoot there, but who cares, because this film is definitely getting made.  Will it be good?  Damned if I know, but it'll be interesting to see where this goes.  It'll be at least as interesting to see how it's marketed.  With a cast of kids, will they market it like any other YA novel adaptation?  Will they spin it as a summer blockbuster?  How do you handle the marketing of a novel whose cast would fit right into Harry Potter or The Hunger Games, but who today's kids won't remember (or, most likely, even understand)?  You'll get the literary Sci-Fi crowd easily enough: both those who read it when it came out, and those like me who, the discerning nerds we are, picked it up out of curiosity.  Will they be satisfied with that though?  I doubt it.  Films take lots of time and effort, and if they don't try to sell this to a broader audience than that, then they're not doing their job.  Especially if the movie ends up being good.

Whatever the case may be, they've already made at least one overture to we the Ender's Game fans who live on the internet: someone's started a production blog.  It appears to update every week on Wednesday, though my hypothesis may be proven wrong if no new post occurs within the next five hours of me writing this.  The posts set the right tone, in my opinion.  They aren't informative about the film itself (they shouldn't be), but they portray a sense of enthusiasm and excitement for the project.  Whether or not it actually reflects the atmosphere of the production, it's fun to read, and heartening.  After all, I've said many times that when a movie sucks, the two main reasons are almost without fail either the script or the crew's ennui, and I have good reason to believe that the script is at least solid.  Of course, all that really means is that we probably wont be watching it in Riff Club a few years from now.  Movies are strange things.

Anyway, the film's release date is a long way off (November 2013, according to Wikipedia), so I'm not precisely exited about it, per se, but it's an interesting thing to keep tabs on.

Edit: hypothesis confirmed, it does indeed update Wednesdays.  New picture is of Ender's room.  Looks pretty much perfect.

Dusty Cels
If you're an American anime fan, and were born sometime in the early 90s or very late 80s, you probably watched a programming block called Toonami on a basic cable TV channel called Cartoon Network.  Even if you didn't watch it, you probably still heard about how, on April 1st, this previously cancelled block made a return.  For one night, exactly.  Certain parts of the internet exploded with renewed frustration at its cancellation, and desperate hopes that it might return.  For the first time in, perhaps, all of internet history, those hopes actually have some basis in fact: Cartoon Network has not denied that they are considering brining it back, and in fact, has said that those interested should make themselves audible so that they can better evaluate what sort of audience it would get.  I am sorry to say that, since my TV isn't hooked up, I watched a not-quite-legal livestream of it, but if it were to return, I would definitely watch it.  I can think of few better ways to spend a Saturday night than watching awesome, poorly dubbed anime, hosted by Spike Spiegel Roger Smith Grunt Captain Bartlett Steve Blum.

Of course, in all likelihood, Toonami won't be coming back.  Licensing and dubbing anime is a high-tension bet when your audience is so uncertain.  I have reason to believe that they could sustain a pretty decent audience, but there's no way to make that argument in a way that doesn't rely on the hear-say of any number of given 90s kids and internet nerds.  If they were to restart the Toonami block, they'd be jumping off a cliff without making sure the stranger you just met tied the bungee cord right.  Still, since speculation is what I do, suppose that Toonami did start again.  What would they show?  Certainly, I foresee the occasional Trigun, Cowboy BeBop, and Tenchi Muyo! reruns, but they wouldn't survive on nostalgia for long: people would actually realize how awful the dub of Gundam Wing really was.  They would definitely have to license new releases, but what, pray tell, might they license?  The production committees favor shows that cater two Japanese otaku, who watch it on Japanese television, buy the ridiculously expensive Japanese DVD releases, and the hilariously weird Japanese exclusive merchandise.  While there are many on the internet who watch and appreciate Nichijous and such, that's not the sort of show that drew in people to Toonami.  That's been true since the early 2000s, and if you just look at the Wikipedia page, illustrating Toonami's lineup by year, you can see for yourself how much the quality of shows had thinned out.

Once again, then, what would they air?  It would seem a problem, except that I'm feeling rather confident about the direction the Japanese industry is taking.  The last couple of seasons brought us shows like Tiger & Bunny and Madoka Magica, and this season is in the process of giving us things like Jormungand.  I would like to think that it's a sign of the times that Japan is slowly starting to realize that making the occasional non-pandering title now and then is not only feasible, but profitable.  That's all we really need at this point.

So, off the top of my head, here's some new shows, movies, and OVAs that have come out since 2008 that I think Toonami, should it come back, would be remiss to miss:

- Eden of the East + Movies
- The Rebuild of Evangelion films
- Tiger & Bunny
- Puella Magi Madoka Magica
- Jormungand

I haven't seen a lot, so I'm sure there's perfect stuff that I've missed, but pretty much all of those would fit perfectly with what people seem to have loved about Toonami.  The only thing that gives me pause is that first episode of Madoka Magica, which, though I love the series, is still hard for me to sit through.  Here's how it goes: "OMG THIS IMAGERY FUCKING ROCKS AND oh, it's another middle school slice of life show.  Huh.  I have to give it to them: this is the most inane dialog I've ever heard.  Oh wait, what's this now?  A mysterious transfer student?  How impressive.  I'm going to stop watching this now."  That's pretty much exactly what happened the first time I tried to watch it, and then abandoned it, and I'm worried that might be what happens if it aired on Toonami.  Which would be a shame, since it's an awesome show that everyone who has ever watched an anime and liked it should see.

Taking a Jormungander at the New Season
A young boy living with a pimp arms
dealer learns to accept guns in his life.
Anyway, speaking of Jormungand, that's one of this season's shows, and it's awesome.  The writer is Yousuke Kuroda, who also happened to be behind one or two other anime, like Trigun, Tenchi Muyo!, and the Hellsing OVAs.  It's about a former child soldier named Jonah, who hates everyone associated with weapons, and yet travels as a mercenary with an arms dealer named Koko.  Despite his hatred of war and murder, he's come to depend on guns, and has become as dead inside as you'd expect a former child soldier working as a mercenary to be.  Also, lots of gunfights.  The writing is spectacular, of course, but there's something about the character designs that make it work that much better.  Koko is one of the most insidiously menacing looking characters I've ever seen, and Jonah compliments her excellently.  The use of white symbolizing death is not uncommon, but somehow, it works.  I'm not quite sure precisely why it works this time more than others (perhaps it's the way it ties into the characters' mannerisms), but it does.  Of course, this show could easily end up forgettable after all, but if it keeps up at this pace, I'll be very happy.

Bodacious Space Pirates is continuing into 26 episodes, and is still a very well put together thing, but I feel it's lost its way a bit.  The early episodes had a very specific vision of what it wanted to do with Marika's character and the world of the story.  With the introduction of the two princesses, and their storyline, that got muddled a bit.  She's stopped growing, or rather, we've stopped finding out new things about her.  The two new characters have little in the way of depth to take its place.  Cowboy BeBop could get away with that, because Spike, Jet, Faye, and Ed are inherently fun to watch, but Marika and her crew, while fun in context, doesn't really have that quality.  That's not what the show was ever about.  It's still a good show, of course, but not as good.

On the other hand, we have Yoko Kanno and Shinichirou Watanabe of Cowboy BeBop fame making an anime about Jazz, which, for those playing at home, is shorthand for "holy crap this is going to rock."  I need to look up when that's going to air, and if it'll be simulcasted.  Expect to be hearing about this one.

To Make the End of Puns
And now, I must attend to other, far less important matters like homework.  Until then,

Don't you love how villains in old Japanese video games speak?  かっこいいぜ!

1 comment:

  1. The April Fool's return of Toonami was awesome. I had Cartoon Network since I was a child and actually remember the first incarnation of the show with Moltar as the host. It used to air in afternoons and show old stuff like original Space Ghost, Bird Man, and Johnny Quest mixed in with stuff like ThunderCats and Gundam Wing. I hope they do bring back Toonami and think they probably will to some extent (maybe not weekly) as this test got huge ratings for being unannounced and airing late on a Saturday night. I'd like to see it come back but if not I'm content with Toonami Aftermath:

    Also I recently made a post on my blog on MD Geist and the Fist of the North Star movie.