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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Aggregation #02

Aggregate - Part 2

If M.D. Geist Were Emo: Deadman Wonderland

People don’t know what to expect from this strange thing called “anime,” but they do know what to expect from Toonami: accessibility and action.

Deadman Wonderland has plenty of the latter, added and stirred with a cup and a half of good ol’ fashioned manipulative nihilism. Bake at 400 degrees. Ding. You now have your very own incredibly dumb, barely competent, and completely enjoyable exercise in blood, half-way bildungsroman, and what the hell, here’s some more blood, because we’re cool like that.

Ganta is a nice little ordinary middle school kid. So naturally, his whole class is violently slaughtered, and he’s pinned with the crime. Innocent as he is, few judges are on the circuit who are inclined to believe testimony alluding to a murderous phantasmic “Red Man” who, according to Ganta, implanted a red crystal in his chest. The villainous DA, who obviously knows exactly whats up and further frames him for the crime, does nothing to help. So Ganta gets interred in a privately owned prison called Deadman’s Wonderland (and everyone’s okay with this, apparently) where everything is awful, and he meets a mysterious albino girl in a skintight body suit who immediately greets Ganta as her bestest buddy.

So basically, a not particularly unusual shonen adventure setup. The grownups are terrible, the girls are well endowed, and the kid is special. Why, then, is Deadman Wonderland as enjoyable as it is?

Not because it’s any good. A drama starts and ends with its characters, and Shiro and Ganta are flat. We never really find out that much about them, or why they are the way they are. They wear their motivations on their sleeves, and they seem to feel things out of habit than actual emotion. I seem to remember all of about three emotions from Ganta, and most of them have to do with the fact that the show is doing everything it can to make the guy miserable.

And the show goes out of its way to do so, to the point of completely, almost naively transparent contrivance. Why is the friendly, decent guy introduced? So he can get stomped on with a stiletto heel. Why must Ganta consume antidote “candy” to stay alive? Because it’s dramatic. Why does anyone do anything in this whole show? Because the director had one burning question he wanted answered during this production: how do we make it more dark?

Deadman Wonderland is a show that revels in its own nihilism, trying to one up itself at every corner. Yet in the end, the show reveals it actually has a theme.

What’s that theme?

You have to reject nihilism…to reject nihilism.

A theme that it states boldly and with supreme and utter self confidence, as if it were the most brilliant realization in all of human history.

And that’s what makes it so special. It has the audacity to be a stupid piece of crap. At no point did it feel like this was something that came out of a production committee. The director’s semi-competent fingerprints are all over this show, and while the result is intensely dumb, it feels like a special kind of dumb that will never be reproduced anywhere else. It is a show as written, it feels, by an edgy teenager, for other edgy teenagers to marvel at.

Miraculously, the show is also halfway competent on the technical side. It’s paced decently, the dub is just good enough to get by, and all the little filmmaking details are all there. All this helps make all that’s stupid with it watchable, instead of simply boring.

For the weapons that require you to cut yourself to use. For the dumb OP song. For Greg Ayres doing his best Shinji impersonation. For the complete tone-deafness to theme. For the complete lack of anything like self-moderation. For all those things, I loved this show, in spite of itself. It’s pretty hilarious.

Wargame: European Escalation

Obviously, by “one post a day,” I meant “one post after about a week of chilling with friends, drawing, and trying to decide how I feel about going back to college.”

Also, playing vidya.

Specifically, I’ve had a bit of a problem. I used to play a lot of a mod for the old game Command & Conquer: Generals called Cold War Crisis. As you may guess, it’s set during the 80s, and involves conventional warfare with the Soviets. Think Red Storm Rising.

In the real world, had the Soviets ever decided to roll across the Fulda Gap into West Germany, they’d be rolling in under a fog of deadly chemical weapons and would have likely trounced NATO forces in Europe in about a week. Assuming things had not already gone all fission-y.

Fortunately, as this is a game, NATO is strangely well-supplied, and the thousands of chemical and nuclear weapons have been thankfully ignored, allowing you, the player, to command your armored division with impunity.

Note how I use the past tense.

When I got my new laptop, it came with OS 10.7, a user friendly but problematic OS that, among other things, broke the Cold War Crisis mod. If this were merely a configuration problem, I could fix it myself, post the fix on the internet, and be a minor sort of hero, but alas no. The problem is with the launcher, which only the CWC team would be able to fix.

I enjoyed the style of game, and I wanted a replacement. Unfortunately, none presented itself on the mac, but on the PC, I found Wargame: European Escalation.

A game developed by people who hate the letter “s.”

Compared to the CWC mod, it’s a much more tactical game. You control objectives, earn points, and use them to bring in reinforcements. Vehicles use roads to move faster, tanks run out of fuel, and using transports to move around infantry actually makes sense on these huge German expanses. Given how much you’ll need to be shuttling supply trucks and reinforcements to and from the FOB, the game is as much about logistics as tactics.

It plays on very large maps, but it still conserves individual unit detail. Unfortunately, unless you’re running on a very good computer, you won’t see much of that detail. I’m actually experiencing some rather unfortunate texture glitches, but I think that’s the fault of something I did to the configuration.

With the added dimension of realism, I’m having to get used to thinking with practical tactics, and learn more about cold war era weaponry. For instance, hiding a squad of Panzergrenadieren with MILANs in the trees to fire on approaching armor is a good idea, but their missiles are manually guided. That means, even though they can engage at significant ranges, they will almost always miss even a sitting target, wasting all their missiles. You have to tell them specifically to hold their fire until the armor gets closer.

On the other hand, micro is more difficult to pull off. I have yet to be able to maneuver my tanks into a “hull down” position (stopped behind a hill so just the turret is visible over the crest). Though tanks have different amounts of armor on different sides, there’s not really much of a way to make sure they’re facing the right direction. Most tank battles seem to come down to who has the better tanks and crews.

Playing skirmish agains the AI is fun, though on easy, it makes some weird choices.

I once found myself moving up my armor to defend two middle objectives when all of a sudden the AI decided to bring out all the MI-2s ever. I had about three units of four Leopard L4s, and two of them routed under the hundreds of rockets that were coming down on them from all directions. It worked for the AI. But then my Gepards arrived and all of a sudden it was full of burning MI-2 wrecks.

Later, I was playing, and it decided to camp around…somewhere. I’m not sure where all its forces were, if it even brought any in, but I sent in a recon helicopter to scout their FOB. There was nothing there except the command vehicle, which got destroyed, securing victory.

Most of the time, it’ll simply bring up lots of tanks with scout vehicle support and some anti air in the back. Woe to any tank elements that get caught out of position, but with some scouting and good preparation, its armored pushes stall pretty quick by better quality tanks with infantry, helicopter, and logistical support. The first time it tried this, a unit of Leopard L4s and two of L3s got caught behind enemy lines with no support against about five units of T-55s. The tanks took more than 50% casualties, but the remaining tanks held out, because the AI didn’t stop to deal with them. So they followed them and took shots at their rear while two more units of Leopards came to reinforce the other side of a rather obvious choke point they were headed for while artillery fired ineffectually in the general direction of the advancing armor.

So anyway, it kinda sucks that it’s on the PC, but it’s a good game. I’ll definitely be playing a lot more.

Did I mention you’d be spending a lot of time watching tanks drive down the Autobahn?


  1. I never do this but I looked over your blog and I feel i should ask this. have you ever seen or heard of an anime called Serial experiments lain?

    1. I have heard of it, and it's been on my to-do list for forever.

  2. worth your time to see trust me

    also i have to try European escalation it looks great though might be a bit much for my pc given how WIC went