Archive for the “games” Category

Marisa reacts to Aya.

It is probably not a good sign that I immediately pictured Suika Ibuki as being some sort of displaced (and horned) Yui Hirasawa, especially since I'm pretty sure I've encountered Aki Toyosaki's voice in plenty of other anime before. (Particularly Momo Deviluke from To Love-Ru, who looks more like a standard youkai anyway.)

To be fair, Ayumi Fujimura as Aya Shameimaru (\SHAMEIMARU/) sound nothing like what I expected from her roles as Naomi Umegae (Zettai Karen Children) or Misaki Ayuzawa (Kaichou wa Maid-sama). And from the other direction, Mai Nakahara as Reimu Hakurei sounds pretty much like most of her other more memorable roles, possibly due to some sort of bias: ever since Mai Tokiha (Mai-HiME) and Teana Lanster (Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS), I associate her with the calm, long-suffering, serious Girl Next Door roles, and I remember her as such.

Miyuki Sawashiro as Marisa Kirisame did make me happy, of course. And the narrator being Kikuko Inoue is several kinds of amusing.

Still, hearing Sakuya Izayoi voiced by Rie Tanaka made me imagine many strange things about Hayate the Combat Butler's Maria.

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This is actually my current party, although it's missing the PSP-added Welch Vineyard, which I keep thinking is the name of an actual business somewhere.

One of the problems I face with JRPGs, or indeed many RPGs of whatever geographical origin, is the tendency to put in Hidden Items. Not because there is a story reason for them to be hidden, but simply to effectively sell strategy guides, which GameFAQs circumvents to a certain degree. I don't just mean treasure chests or items in inconspicuous locations, but more of having to go through a certain number of very specific actions that nothing in the actual game itself indicates, just to be able to unlock this or that or the other. Final Fantasy 7 players might remember the Gold Chocobo, and Final Fantasy 12 players might recall the Zodiac Spear.

I'm not sure why this happens, although as guessed, it might have something to do with strategy guides. But it's not like I know for certain that this is the case, so everything is just speculation. I might not even bother if all I get is something that has no bearing on the story, but all too often I have to follow the steps of an elaborately-choreographed dance in order to get the True End or something.

I've always figured the Star Ocean setting to be fairly intriguing, at least on the surface. Of course, I've never actually finished a Star Ocean game before (even though I've played at least past the tutorial of all four so far), so I could be missing something. Right now I think Star Ocean: Second Evolution is the furthest I've ever gotten in a game, although Star Ocean: The Last Hope is sitting temptingly near my PS3.

But Star Ocean 2 (or Second Evolution or whatever) has a special place in my nostalgia, thanks to the Star Ocean EX anime. I remember wishing for more Precis screentime, all those years ago, and so now I am making it happen.

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Cirno and her gang.

I seem to remember, somewhere in the distant mists of the Internet Time past (distinct from, say, Valve Time), some sort of diatribe going around the English-language anime blog community like some sort of strangely-contagious cold. I think it had something to do with K-On at the time, as a catalyst for an issue that had been bubbling away for some time. I posted something in reaction based on what was being argued at face value, because I was still not sure what I thought about the general case yet.

I'm still not sure, but I might have ascended to a higher level of ignorance. I think. Maybe.

The argument put forth is that a character who is, shall we say, not entirely quick on the uptake when it comes to mental gymnastics should not be popular. The term used was "retarded moe", which strikes me as an odd effect of semantics: by using what has become an insult in many juvenile mudslinging matches, coupled with the probably-oversimplified idea of moe commonly held to be the entire territory itself (instead of merely a guide map), the issue has become equally oversimplified, and boiled down to its extremes. It's easier to attack the edges of the graph, even if they turn out to be strawmen.

I've noticed that this "retardedness", and I am willing to experiment with other terms to find one that fits better, comes in a variety of flavours, and it's not really clear where one begins and ends, as well as the differing subsets and intersections thereof. Off the top of my head, there is the one which seems to be the primary target, exemplified (at least in recent memory) as Fuuko from Clannad: clumsy and bad at schoolwork, and not exactly overflowing with common sense. Clumsy Stupid characters mess up a lot, but always in an adorable manner, and the viewer is supposedly compelled to help them out if only to keep them from hurting themselves. Not because they're liable to poke pencils into their ears, but because they don't give up, and they'll keep doing whatever it is they do, no matter how many times they fail.

Then there is the Straightforward Stupid, as seen (again in recent memory) with… well, not Negi, but more his father Nagi, in Negima. The idea of Nagi's special brand of idiocy is discusses at some length in the manga: it's not so much plain stupidity as a sort of stubborn bloody-mindedness, a feeling that everything can be dealt with if you have More Power, or More Love, or More Spiral Energy, or whatever. A direct, straightforward rush, and a refusal to worry about the little details beforehand, although it should be noted that they don't completely ignore them either; they just deal with it as it comes. This is the Stupidity of the typical shounen action hero protagonist. I'm a little iffy about this one, because there's a hint of anti-intellectualism involved: why bother with thinking intelligently when it's shown to be less effective than blasting through everything at loud volumes?

There's the Cheerful Stupid, again shown in recent works with Recette from Recettear. The "well, I don't know what's going on, but everyone should get along" sort. The ones who have their own invincible magic of Zettai Daijoubu. There's an unrelenting, unceasing cheer which, assuming the setting is light enough to allow it, infects everyone else and brings them around to the Cheerful Stupid character's viewpoint, full of cheer and hope. If they worry about things, it will be the little details that everyone else sees as unimportant. Maybe they believe that the big problems would be solved "somehow", through sheer determination, or they know that worrying about it isn't going to make things any better. This overlaps to a certain degree with the Clumsy Stupid: they keep trying, because they believe that in the end, they'll succeed.

We also have the Prideful Stupid, which was what prompted this rambling post. Anime-wise, we see it with Ika Musume in her titular anime, but I was pondering this while reading various 4koma doujins of Cirno from the Touhou-verse. This brand of Stupidity has a lot of links to the Straightforward version, but it also has some effect for the Cheerful Stupid at times. The idea is that the Prideful Stupid character is the best person for the job, and possibly the best person period. The leadership position should fall to them naturally, even though they might not actually know what to do; they just think they're qualified, and don't bother them about the details. Ika Musume wants to take over the world, even though she has no idea what the world is like. Cirno says she's the strongest, even though she's at the low-tier of power objectively.

There are plenty more varieties, of course (for example, the Spacy Stupid, as seen in the later portrayals of Osaka-san in Azumanga Daioh). And this doesn't always have to do with anime, or even moe, but that's outside the scope of this blog. Well, to be honest, it's more of a raised eyebrow at the possibility of this post being even longer than it already is.

I suspect some of it is indeed due to the Stupid Person being female, and a cute anime girl at that. We forgive a lot of things when it's presented with eye candy. This effect also applies to small children of either gender, assuming you don't actively dislike small children of either gender.

In fact, it's often because this trait of Stupidity resembles that of young children that there's an unexpected appeal. Here, the Stupidity is transformed into Innocence, or perhaps Naivete. Not knowing the ways of the world, and not caring, as long as they have fun. Coming up with even more bizarre ways of dealing with the little inconveniences and problems of life that we, burdened with Common Sense and Practicality, might not have the imagination for.

This might be why we may be particularly affected by the thought of these young characters grown up, and remembering the stupid fun things they did in childhood. The ephemerality of this innocence is far more effective than when the characters are forever young and Stupid. Someday, Calvin will grow up, and we wonder if he will still remember Hobbes.

And when I look at pictures of Cirno, the ones which I love most are those with the rest of Team 9, portrayed as Cirno's gang of friends. Because here and now, in this frozen instant of time, she is indeed the strongest.

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Flandre attempts to open some snacks.

I've been spending some time the past few days researching the whole Touhou business.

Touhou is one of those things which is unavoidable if you delve deeply enough into Anime Stuff On The Internet. I'd meant to sit down and seriously research it sooner or later (mostly hoping that someone would write up an informative Let's Play of the series), but I kept putting it off due to the sheer volume of what I'd need to know.

Playing the games myself is out of the question: I'm simply not good at them, and the gameplay itself is not fun enough for me to die countless times just to get good at it. There comes a point where frustration outweighs any potential reward.

"So play on Easy mode," I am told.

"It's challenging for me even on Easy-" I begin.

"Oh, by the way," they interrupt, "Easy mode is only for kids, so never play on Easy mode."

If you say so.

Still, since it's all over the Internet, or at least the anime corner of it, I've picked up bits and pieces of the canon, although this is apparently a special case in that there is very little true canon, much like mainstream superhero comics, and the appeal is based on fanon. Getting fans to agree on something is eventually a futile effort, so it's not like I can pin down more than the broad strokes. The games themselves, I am told, are merely the basic jumping-off point, and it is possible (again, so I am told) to enjoy the setting without playing the games.

And as my experiences with just about everything else has proven, now that I'm older (if no wiser), I've gotten tired of dealing with fandom. The source often brings me joy, but being involved in the actual fandom implies having to tolerate other people. For a fanbase as large and varied as Touhou, the chances of aggravation and frustration is high. (In fact, for a time I had to try to ignore Touhou until I cooled off, since one particularly rabid fan also had such an abrasive personality, often regarding Touhou itself, that my general policy of never judging a series by its proponents was sorely tested.) I'm reluctant to declare, with confidence, that Such And Such is my favourite aspect, because I'm sure someone will drop in with "but you see, that character is less awesome than this one" and then I have to wonder why I bother. I'm getting too old for fandom debates.

But researching Touhou had always been on the list of Things To Get Around To, and recently, I got around to it.

With such a large number of characters in so short a time, it seems that my primary means of learning about characters is based on their theme songs, and how catchy they are. Suwako Moriya, Flandre Scarlet, and Cirno are in the lead, thanks to their famous remixes, and Cirno is fascinating to consider as the resident Overconfident Idiot, made more tolerable in that she's portrayed as exactly that. (I don't know enough about Suwako.) Flandre is just scary; I know she's been portrayed as cute in quite a few fanworks, but to me it's the sort of cute that only barely tints the vicious insanity. The best illustration I've seen of this is her appearance in the famous Bad Apple video. Every time I rewatch that grin, chills.

After that is a whole mess of catchy tunes, more or less on equal footing, and below that are the… not so catchy tunes, for characters I don't especially care about. Of course, my criteria for "catchy" often conflicts with others', since I'm not really a huge fan of Obvious Electronica or Noisy Metal.

Apart from theme tunes, character-wise I'm still waiting to see if the initial enthusiasm will last, but I have to say that Marisa and Reisen appear to be in the running. The common thread, so to speak, is in their outfits. Reisen is a standard schoolgirl-esque outfit plus bunny ears, which makes it possible to be created in City of Heroes; in fact, I know for a fact that someone has already done so.

As for main characters, mikos do nothing for me, but I covet Marisa's hat.

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Mikoto as Pikachu.

I wonder if I'm the only person who, when playing inFamous, starts imagining Mikoto Misaka (aka Biri-biri) in the role of Cole McGrath.

As far as I can tell on Danbooru, nobody's done fanart of that yet. Plenty of Pikachu references, though, as the picture shows.

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Lightning and Serah.

My entertainment options for the past week or so has been hijacked by my first foray into the present generation of consoles, which explains my general lack of updates or even noticing what has come to pass in the world of anime.

I got the Playstation 3 essentially for two games: Final Fantasy XIII and inFamous. With the discovery of Recettear and its subsequent devouring of my life, I added on Atelier Rorona onto the pile, and topped the list off with Bayonetta and Valkyria Chronicles. I am appalled at the amount of willpower it took me to pry myself away from my new toy.

This thing is dangerous to my productivity.

So far I've been enjoying Final Fantasy XIII. It simplifies the systems of the previous FFs, and distills it to its core essence. And while I miss the familiar tunes and themes from the earlier games, I can find no fault with the ones here. (Of course, I have the version with the Japanese voices and the English subtitles, which may be a factor.)

It even has an in-game encyclopedia/codex, with the Datalog. I'd prefer a lot more background info on the setting, but what's already there is fascinating enough.

Unfortunately, it also continues the trend of the Final Fantasy games of the recent years in being really, really depressing. I find myself gravitating to Vanille entirely because she isn't caught in the throes of despair… okay, let me rephrase that. Vanille doesn't act like she is caught in the throes of despair. I know the characters have had really bad things happen to them, but honestly it's a little difficult to handle such GRIMDARK all the time.

And Vanille looks like she has some Deep Dark Secrets of her own. I actually like the Yuffie-Selphie-Rikku type characters, which I keep feeling puts me in the tiny minority of the subset of the fandom who discusses these things on forums.

As in anime, I like the actual material, but the fandom seems to hate me. So it goes.

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Recette, master of disguise.

Yes, I'm still playing Recettear. And enjoying it immensely; it seems to have just the right amount of cheery optimism and anime cuteness and Just One More Timeslice gameplay that pushes all the right buttons, although I'd have to be distressingly vague on exactly where these buttons are.

I've even been chronicling my adventures in Pensee on my Livejournal, no doubt to the irritation of my friendslist. For a game that purports to be about a little girl trying to pay off her father's debt in a RPG-stereotypical fantasy town, there are some deep spoilers in there. There is an actual plot going on here. It is surprising and awesome.

I keep talking about how I think Recettear would make a good anime, although to be honest the actual game mechanics would probably have to be relegated to the background after maybe a feature episode or so, because the real meat is in the character interactions and events. Elan and Caillou, Tielle and her sister, Alouette and Prime, Louie and poverty, Griff and his hamminess… even stumbling-block character Euria has her own backstory happening, and we can orbit endlessly around the hilarity of most of the cutscenes. The ones which aren't hilarious are heartwarming, which is just as good.

Wild speculation has been made. We know it will never come to pass. We know it is just idle rambling. We know it's essentially fanfic. We don't care, because the idea is captivating. Fanfic it may be, but it is fun fanfic.

One thing I think would work exceptionally well is a little post-episode bit, drawn in a simpler style, of Charme dispensing mildly-inebriated advice in the Pub, which can be applied to Real Life. Have confidence in yourself. Don't worry too much about the future. Don't be reckless with people's hearts. Do one thing every day which scares you. Respect your elders. Wear sunscreen.

Things like that.

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Recette and Tear.

There's something fascinating about watching the Internet pick up on this strange little doujin game from Japan that got released on Steam/Impulse/GamersGate.

Obviously, I love Recettear. It features lots of cute girls, including a cute girl as the player character and another cute fairy girl as her advisor. The art style of the character designs is almost calculated to grab me right there, although where there is I shall leave to your fertile imaginations. The music is happy and cheery, and the tinny retro MIDI nature adds to its charm, because sometimes I just want to listen to something that reminds me of the bright happy games and colours of the games of my youth, ie the SNES era. I'd willingly fork out money for a soundtrack.

The dialogue and much-vaunted translation is amusing, which add points to its favour, but it is not a multiplier per se. I mean, I like it, but it does not loom as large in my estimation of the overall package as the characters and the way they're drawn and the way they act and the catchy music that plays in the background when they do what they do. The gameplay does not take away points, but it's actually not really my main draw towards the game; it's not something which annoys or frustrates me, but it does not add value as such.

Based on the commentary I've seen about this game, I actually like it for the aspects which many others see as a disincentive.

"Too anime", they gripe, and I have to mentally adjust my filters to allow that they do not like anime in the way I do. They do not obsess over anime as I frequently do in my blog postings, and the fact that I even have a blog dedicated to the cute girls in anime sets me apart from these people.

But anime is more of a collection of styles than a specific genre, and further complaints about Recettear include it being "too cutesy". Again, this is contrary to my tastes: I like cutesy. I like sugary sweet, I like high-pitched voices squeaking and gasping and cheerily greeting me "good morning~" and burbling about how they had a wonderful dream about having all the sweets they could eat. I don't cringe from it like many do; I actively seek it out, because I think it's cute, and I like cute.

And to turn this standard rant about liking what I like and how there's no accounting for my tastes into another direction, I found myself wondering why I am different.

Except it's not a good idea to pack all the meaning I intend into such a short statement. What I meant was that yes, I'm free to like what I like… but I'm told this in the same way I might be told that I'm free to not like chocolate (this is true, by the way; I don't like chocolate, although I don't hate it). Or that I don't use Facebook (too many other social networking update sites for me). It sets me apart in a "well, there's no accounting for taste" kind of way, and I wonder why my taste has to be accounted for in the first place.

Who decided, for instance, that "cutesy" was bad? Where comes this social expectation that I am not allowed to squee over cute girls and cute clothes and cute music and other "childishly cute things", just because I happen to be a guy in my late twenties? I am not demanding an answer in the fist-shaking placard-waving manner of the Truly Righteous, but this is not a rhetorical question. I would indeed like to know.

There is this perception that people who like the things I do are… well, less than commendable. Why? What is it about the nature of the things we like that are unacceptable for the greater social (whether Real Life or Internet) milieu? They tell me that moe is killing anime, and I simply do not see it, any more than mecha was killing anime, or shounen fighting series was killing anime, or the shoujo that inspired quite a lot of the moe aesthetic. It's a trend; I happen to like this one, but it too shall pass. Just because there are bad shows cashing in on the trend doesn't mean there weren't bad shows cashing in on other trends. It seems unfair to single out "moe" and "cute" as some sort of disgustingly perverted villain.

Yes, I spend lots of money because of the cute anime girls, although it should more properly be for the cute anime clothes being worn on cute anime girls. This has never struck me as being bad; I spend money on what I like, since it's a drop in the ocean beside the vast fortunes spent collectively on, say, Gundam models, or Apple merchandise, or sports memorabilia.

I get the odd feeling that people try to categorize me based on my interests. I do fit into a category; it just isn't the category people think I'm in. This dissonance is frustrating for me, since it's not like those who categorize me with sweeping generalizations actually care about me and people like me enough to amend their statements.

I am not like what I am accused of being, but neither do I suggest that I am better (or worse) than that. This sudden unspoken and unlisted hierarchy of fandom is mysterious and opaque to me, as are its point and purpose.

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Top Seller list.

Like it says.

Seriously.

Quoting the forum post:

Gold.

September 10th.

We're making this happen.

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Title Drop.

I've become pretty much hooked on the Recettear demo. Not the actual game itself, but the demo. When the full game is released in English I may have to barricade myself in my room.

The game just hits so many of the right buttons for me (pun unintended). The music, the translation, the light happy mood, the underlying story… everything. It's amazing.

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