Archive for September, 2008

Old meme is old.

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Just a teaser image.

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Subaru hearts Teana.

Being that I completely forgot to mention it in my last post, I actually meant to lead up to a rambling of sorts on the feasibility of importing various cultural norms from the 97th Non-Administered World into the Midchilda setting of post-StrikerS Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha.

The gist of the matter is that going by Hard Science, there is no reason whatsoever for our holidays and traditions to turn up in any recognizable form for the native denizens of Midchilda. And yet, from the squishy softness of the sci-fi of MSLN, it somehow seems plausible for the characters to be celebrating Christmas or some such, albeit possibly by another name.

And seeing as this is, at base, an anime made in Japan for predominantly Japanese consumers, the holidays featured would be Japanese ones, as well as Japanese interpretations of international occasions. The canon has not, to my knowledge, dealt with this in any depth as such; there's the post-A's O-Hanami in the Sound Stage (third one, I think), which involves mainly the Uminari City set of people, the Wolkenritter (who've probably gone native), and the crew of the Arthra (who might conceivably have picked up on Lindy's slightly warped Japanophilia). Tanabata will probably be given a pass, since it'll be fairly obvious to all that the stars on Midchilda will probably not look the same as on Earth.

Yet, the possibilities for fanfiction are tempting. We could use Nanoha's knowledge of her own culture to introduce Vivio to the joys of Hinamatsuri; Subaru and Ginga could have picked it up from Genya, and Caro from Fate (who, in turn, probably learned of it from Lindy or the Takamachis). Christmas-analogues are so common among the softer edge of speculative fiction, especially those marketed at a mass enough audience, that it is within the realm of Keeping To The Spirit of the Nanoha-verse to include something like it, particularly as Christmas is seen as a primarily romantic holiday in Japan. The religious aspects might be interpreted through the Church of the Sankt Kaiser, which could lead to some awkwardness on the part of Vivio.

All of this (and the previous post) was actually inspired from something which I took for granted when writing anime fanfics: Valentine's Day. The complex interplay of Will She Or Won't She, shading into Is She Or Isn't She, revolving around the one emotion which makes it all indispensible: hope. On a less dramatic note, there's always the puppy love image (although with the Three Years Later of the SSX sound stage, the dynamics have gotten more… interesting) of Caro and her handmade chocolates presented shyly to a furiously-blushing Erio. Of course, if we're willing to break the mood with some comedy, Lutecia could be standing by with her own handmade chocolates, Ensuing in Hilarity.

Which is still quite tame, compared to the potential of my favourite StrikerS duo.

Teana: Just so we're clear, this is obligation chocolate, and nothing more! Obligation chocolate! There's no deep or hidden meaning in this, okay?!
Subaru: ^_____^

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Vivio in a familiar uniform.

The Time-Space Administration Bureau of Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha oversees at least 97 "non-administrated" worlds, since Earth is number 97. The title of "non-administered" is distinct from "uninhabited", so we can assume that all of these worlds have some sort of population. The number of "administered" worlds is unknown, but is probably more than one. Depending on how accurately certain sources have been translated, the highest number I know of offhand is either 12 or 61.

Judging by events in the series, the Prime Directive is loosely enforced in the case of the non-administered worlds, and there is no injunction against revealing the existence of the TSAB when necessary.

Due to MSLN's position on the scale of sci-fi hardness at a general consistency of ketchup, we have yet to have any problems with language barriers, much less culture shock.

It's a bit hard to decide the traits for a brand new character who's supposed to seem a bit "foreign". Foreign to where? Japanese elementary school children can converse perfectly well with magical artefacts speaking in English, and do battle complete with banter with magically-constructed beings from several thousand years ago, who wield weapons speaking in German. Later, all of them head to an alien world where everyone speaks Japanese. We may postulate the existence of translator microbes, or some sort of magical equivalent, but That Way Lies Madness, where the soft sci-fi of MSLN runs head-on into the hard sci-fi tendencies of fandom.

For the sake of our collective sanity, we'll leave out of our considerations the creator in-joke of naming almost every significant character after a motor vehicle or associated aspect. This does provide for some odd mental images when I see an ad for the Nissan Teana.

The core media of MSLN is the anime, and it clearly eschews physical, sociological, and anthropological barriers in order to tell a Cool Story. Later, the extra materials of the Sound Stages, the manga, the DVD informational booklets, and random creator interviews attempt to explain away the inconsistencies after the fact, but these usually raise more questions than they answer.

Thus far, I've had to completely discard two entire fanfic uberplots due to canonical incompatibilities that have, in the anime, all the emphasis of a passing mention, or a single medium-sized manga panel. (Indeed, the first attempt was shot down because of a single manga panel, which I had hitherto not seen before.) Altering the plot is inconceivable, quite literally; an odd quirk in the way I formulate stories means that these uberplots are extruded whole, a complete work requiring only filler text to be presented as a finished item. On the upside, everything is tightly-plotted, and the guns of Anton Chekhov sound off in perfect time. On the downside, it's all a house of cards, and I don't think that I should continue the bizarre metaphors any longer than necessary.

All of this has given me a sort of blase attitude towards writing MSLN fanfic. While I try to scrutinize every aspect of my Card Captor Sakura fanfics for inconsistencies, the ever-changing canon explanations for How Things Work in the Nanoha-verse has led me to fall back upon the default answer of "Because". I shall have Vivio and several friends attempt a school project, botch it horribly, and then try to hide the results from Grown-Ups, at least until Nanoha-mama comes home and wonders why Zafira has grown thirty times his usual size. Is Vivio even able to do this? Isn't she supervised closely by the authorities? Would her accidental mischief be allowed to go that far? What of the laws of conservation of mass? I'm certainly open to suggestions, but as long as I can present a given quantity of fun, regardless of what readers think afterwards, then I consider my mission well and truly accomplished.

And yes, I have been criticized for this already. Not my stories, but my belief in just letting things be. The slippery slope is brought up quite often, as well as accusations that I have completely done away with Common Sense. I have yet to truly grok why the debating techniques used are so… antagonistic.

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Vivio Takamachi takes on the family business.

Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha has a weird place in my List Of Anime I Like. Every time someone asks me about my Top Ten (or Five or Three) anime, number one will obviously be Card Captor Sakura, and number two will be The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, since both of them made me see the world in a whole new way. (For non-anime fandoms, this also applies to Discworld.) After that, things get kind of fuzzy; I like a lot of anime, but not so much that I'd stridently defend them against all comers the way I do for my top two. For the most part, I might be sorry if they didn't exist (say, for Princess Tutu), but for all I acknowledge their quality and enjoyability factor, they didn't completely reshape my world the way CCS and TMoHS did. There'll always be something else, at least for me.

By all rights, MSLN should be the same way. Which is why I'm not entirely sure why I place it as my number three anime of all time (counting all three seasons together), but it seems right, somehow.

There are several possible reasons for this. Off the top of my head, I recently got into an argument with another MSLN fan, which would have been extended if I hadn't decided to cut it short with an Agree To Disagree clause. (I didn't feel like dealing with that person's antagonistic and confrontational debating technique. I understand that it's How They Are, but I also reserve the right to not like it.) The gist of it was that he could not comprehend why I preferred the magical girl aspects of the show, while I could not explain why I did. I've heard several independent opinions on this multi-genre appeal of MSLN, in that there's Something For Everyone, and I believe that there's some aspect of this in play here: the person I was arguing with likes MSLN because, to him, it was very little like the magical girl series he disliked, and he hopes that future seasons or productions would remove the remaining magical girl aspects he found annoying. For me, I like MSLN because despite all the cross-genre reputation, it still has magical girl aspects at heart, and I hold out my own personal hope that these will never depart from the series.

One of us is obviously and logically going to be disappointed.

And it is something in that magical girl aspect of MSLN which snagged me with a hook for fanfictional ideas, which makes it prominent among the anime I've watched: only two other anime have made me write this many stories for them, and MSLN has surpassed CCS in terms of the number of story concepts I've come up with. (The champion, if you're wondering, is still Ranma 1/2.)

A part of it could be due to the bad parts of the show. I generally write fanfic when I get either one of two reactions to watching something: "This is awesome!" and "This could have been awesome, but it's not. I can do better than this!" The Nanoha-verse is full of Cool Ideas, and regardless of how the canon characters and their adventures are protrayed, the Cool Ideas remain.

There's also my start in writing fanfiction for ReBoot. A mage and her Intelligent Device is not that much different from a Guardian and his Keytool, and the idea of freelance (or close enough to it, at least) troubleshooters with Special Powers that go around Protecting People is a strangely compelling one. Superheroes with a loose organization and official approval, of sorts.

This setup makes it friendly for original characters, unlike TMoHS, where the SOS Brigade is fairly well-formed already and any recurring additions will just seem like an intrusion, or CCS, which already has a complete uberplot, necessitating major fanfic-only characters to exist in prequels, sequels, or another continuity. And interaction with the canon cast can be dictated as simply "the TSAB told you to", which does away with the usual plot contortions to get the new character in the same general area as the canon cast, much less meeting them.

The net result is a bit like my view of Spore: if pressed, I can't say that it's good. In fact, it's a little bit shallow, and there's not a whole lot of substance in there which stands up to close scrutiny. But that doesn't stop me from spending six hours a day playing around with the universe in question.

This is likely to be but the first post in a series. So it goes.

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It'll make you happy like an old-time movie.

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Chacha in Phoenix Sword pose.

It's not entirely clear how old Chacha is: she seems to have the mental age and education level of a seven-year old, but her class also consists of Shiine, who's a lot smarter, and Riiya, who's… not. Marine the mermaid looks fourteen, and while she's in a different class, she seemed to have expected to get put in the same class as Riiya. I suppose "seven" is a good guesstimate.

Which makes it seem all the more wrong to keep thinking that Magical Princess Holy-Up is amazingly, incredibly hot, especially if this is what Chacha would actually look like grown up. The existence in the cultural consciousness of the Hikaru Genji Plan does not help matters.

I might go into Akazukin Chacha in a bit more detail if the mood strikes me, or perhaps a rambling on nostalgic anime in general, since the trigger which got me rewatching this was listening to the opening for Goldfish Warning. Several years and Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha later, I still have a soft squishy spot in my already-mushy heart for brightly-coloured magical girl anime. I know Goldfish Warning isn't a magical girl anime per se, but after Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, I can't help but look at Wapiko and the titular goldfish without thinking "… Unison Device?"

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Another one from Nanatsuiro Drops.

One of the things I've been working on when not fiddling with high explosives my computer is something I've temporarily titled "MBHC". The idea is that one day, I might finally get off my lazy posterior and learn how to create a game in Renpy. There is, of course, that tricky obstacle of learning how to code that. (Just because I effectively taught myself Java in a week doesn't mean I liked it.)

The basic premise is that the player character, who is a Typical Visual Novel Protagonist Guy (TVNPG), is from Somewhere Else, and has come to Earth to find a suitable candidate to be a magical girl. There's a lot of stuff about the Champions and Adversaries of Balance, the Bureaucracy of Destiny, so on and so forth.

But nobody really cares about that. The main point of a story which is depicted as a bishoujo game are the female characters; everything else may as well be lorem ipsum for all the attention that will be paid to it. I am, in fact, counting on this, as would a craven coward who tosses a juicy piece of meat at a ravening dog in order to make good his escape. While readers (or players, possibly) are otherwise distracted with their mental images of the moe-blobs in the story, I get to experiment with writing a whole-hearted, non-parodic, celebratory magical girl story.

The primary stumbling block I've come across is actually an old one, which has tripped me up in other original stories I have written: namely, if a story is to possess an anime feel, should it be set in Japan?

There's the old bromide about writing what you know, which doesn't really work for my habit of using a fictional locale: Singapore, being a tiny island nation, does not have any leftover space in which to place another fictional city. Placing it in Actual Singapore would alienate the majority of English-speaking readers culturally, especially if I have to make the decision whether to consider the pidgin of Singlish a separate language, and thus eligible for translation into proper grammatical English.

The only other real-life experience I have which maps over to most of the rest of the world's, thanks to the United States being the primary force in globalization in the latter half of the 20th century, is that of an American University. This is a cliche in itself, considering the sheer number of Wacky Hijinks webcomics or original stories set in an American University, most likely the author's own. Besides, I don't know much about most of the US anyway; Americans who've met me in Real Life will remember how culturally shocked I always seemed to be, as well as my catchphrase.

In a case of Damned If I Do/Don't, if I set the story in Japan, I will base it on anime, and I will get accused of being an ignorant fanboy. If I set the story in the US, I will get almost everything wrong, and I will get accused of being an ignorant foreigner. To make a hollow laughter.

I never know why the desire to move to Japan is shouted down as shallow; I have a desire to move to the US, mainly because you people seldom have to pay international shipping fees, and this statement is often met with general approval. I suspect a double standard.

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From Nanatsuiro Drops.

I've been spending my time recently cleaning up my computer to hopefully forestall the inevitable complete FUBAR that happens quite consistently every year or so. I'm not due for another one until next year, but preventation is allegedly better than the cure and all that. Incidentally, this is one reason why I've not been updating as often, since it's hard to wax humourous about anime when even being at the computer sends me into guilt trips on what I Should Be Doing with regards to defragging or whatnot.

One of the annoying parts of this is that I had set my Non-Unicode Language option to Japanese. (If anyone's wondering and if it matters, I'm running WinXP Home. I update only when that little popup balloon tells me to.) This is necessary to play my various visual novels collected over many years, since for the most part they're not translated into English (fan patches or otherwise). This, apparently, plays utter havoc with the various Deep Applications needed for, say, my (nVidia) video card, my (Lexmark) printer, or my (Nero) DVD-burning. The details and long, involved, and arcane; I do not fully understand it myself. But suffice to say, I have been trying to convince various applications that I am not in Japan, and I am not in the US. Instead, I am in Singapore, and regional restrictions are my bane.

This entire post was prompted after the fourth system restart necessary when switching to Non-Unicode Japanese to Non-Unicode English (US) and back. This is what I have to deal with, people.

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