The Monday Meme: Did You Say Misery?

springtime


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Under the Dog (2016)

Just about three years ago I ran across a Kickstarter campaign that excited me quite a bit. A small company called Mentat Studios LLC had a vision – they wanted to produce an anime for anime fans around the world without the need for the industry standard production committees and TV networks butting in. It seems that there are a lot of industry types in Japan that are not fans of the current road that the anime market is going down e.g. visual novel anime projects and moe shows designed to sell merchandise and little else. Hiroaki Yura, the executive producer at the time, even went as far as to do a solid Reddit AMA that outlined the project’s vision:

“I hope UTD will give an example that the Japanese anime industry should really focus their attention globally, not just our tiny Japanese audience. Anime should be for the whole world, not just Japan. We don’t always want moe anime or a light novel based anime. I for one long to see anime like Akira.”

This was also the original trailer presented, none of this is in the movie, so it could be seen as a trailer of what could have been a later episode I suppose.

 

while the project did not make the five million dollars needed to make a full feature length film, it did make enough money for one 30 minute OVA episode. I really wish that it could have made more (although some issues the project had that I will talk about in a bit could have complicated it) because ideally Under the Dog was meant to be a TV series.

The staff consisted of Jiro Ishii, director Masahiro Ando, producer Hiroaki Yura, character designer Yūsuke Kozaki, and composer Kevin Penkin. Though the project was successfully funded, Creative Intelligence Arts and Kinema Citrus separated due to creative differences, and Kinema Citrus took full control. The split resulted in the replacement of some development staff, including Yura being replaced by Kōji Morimoto and Yoshirō Kataoka.

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This really worried me, because at the time the whole project seemed somewhat “up in the air” backer rewards started getting cancelled and rumors of creative differences were hitting message-boards. Now it’s early 2017 and I thankfully got my psychical Blu Ray disc to review – technically it was released last fall digitally, but I wanted to wait until I had the disk.

The Blu Ray itself is a bare-bones affair with basically just the film and a handful of special features including the above trailer and a few sound options.

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What we see in this episode is largely stand-alone, but like many 1980’s OVA episodes it’s full of stuff that would be awesome if further explained. There are characters, organizations, and other bits of world building that obviously had to be set aside to meet the running time, making this seem like a introduction to a show that will (likely) never exist. According to the original Kickstarter page, the overall plot is as such:

The story takes place within Neo Tokyo in the year 2025, five years after a severe terrorist attack at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Students possessing special abilities are forced into serving an elite anti-terrorist unit created by the United Nations, fighting against threats including other ability users. If these agents fail their mission, they will be killed along with their families, who have bombs planted within their heads. One member of this covert ops unit, a Swedish girl by the name of Anthea Kallenberg, seeks to find who she really is.

Not a whole lot of this actually makes much of an appearance in the actual movie, as the focus of fifteen minutes of it is built around two entirely other characters than Anthea. The OVA’s story underwent a massive reboot in February 2015, shortly after the staff shakeup and the removal of Creative Intelligence Arts from the project. This may be why the OVA’s story and feel is almost totally different from the trailer and the previously revealed plot elements (there is no mention of a terrorist attack on the 2020 Olympics in the final product, for example).

We find a young girl named Hana Togetsu who appears to be a member of some sort of clandestine organization and is referred to as a “Flower.” Flowers are forced to work under the United Nations to carry out assassinations of terrorists and other detriments to human society such as monsters called Pandoras. It’s implied that a failed mission results in imminent death for a Flower agent and her family, and considering the tension she appeared to have with her family at the beginning of the movie, it seems messed up. She has been planted (Flower! Planted! whoooaaa – I’ll get my coat…) into a school to shadow a boy that seems to have some sort of latent abilities that her organization is after. Too bad the US Military appears to run in Team America style to complicate things.

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On the technical side, everything looks pretty nice although not incredibly spectacular. I can only assume that the budget and staff change-ups meant that parts of this production were rushed. Some of the animation, especially some of the American soldiers is worse than other parts of the film, so they stand out as being somewhat off. This isn’t helped by English voice acting for these characters that isn’t the best. If anyone has been anime anime with half-English and half-Japanese dialog (Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad comes to mind), they usually end up like this since they use non-native speakers or untrained people that just happen to know English.

I really enjoyed the character designs for all of the principle characters, and would have loved to know about some of the other agents that we barely see. I found out by looking at the Anime News Network Encyclopedia entry for Yusuke Kozaki to see he has done a TON of stuff I enjoy like a DS game called Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan, Fire EmblemNo More Heroes 1 and 2, and even Pokemon Go. I need to possibly read some of his manga works if I can find any that are translated.

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All-in-all Under the Dog is a solid enjoyable watch that could have really benefited from being a bit longer. it definitely reminded me more of old-school anime (which is what they were going for) in that it pulled no punches, was bloody as hell, and was made for people like me in mind. It’s basically a cross between Gunslinger Girl and Evangelion in many ways, and despite my few quibbles above I’d recommend checking it out if you can. OH! and if you’re there you can try to find my microscopic name in the end credits!

I am hopeful that we get to see Anthea’s story told as this was recently posted on the official Website for this project:

We are excited to announce that a new partnership for Under the Dog is established! We should be able to officially announce more details soon, but for now, we just would like to let our backers know that Under the Dog, which started out on Kickstarter, will now expand beyond crowdfunding!

This is all due to your support. We thank you again and again, and please look forward to seeing what comes out of our new partnership!

I’m still assuming we won’t see more as this was months ago, but I’ll be excited if this turns out false and we do get more.

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And in case you were wondering….

The phrase “under the dog” comes from GREAT3’s song “Under the Dog” with a line that says “Why don’t you sleep under the dog if you are so sad” for which the meaning is trying to convey (in translation) the definition we had placed on our KS page: “when one is in a situation so disagreeable that they would wish to rather be “under the dog,” a place of dishonor, misery, and filth, in order to escape their current state of affairs.” While the meaning for “underdog” can still apply to the situations the characters will find themselves in, the original meaning comes from very specific elements that are not necessarily tied to “underdog.”
–Kickstarter FAQ answer

 


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D&D Beyond Announced

One thing I have really shifted to these past few years, are computer aids for running and playing role playing games, especially ones for Dungeons and Dragons. Funny thing is, that for the last decade or so, Wizards of the coast has been fairly lazy about getting something like a Dungeon Master organization program out there, so amateur developers had to step in. I used to use a program called “Master Plan” to run third edition games, but it sadly died – most likely via cease and desist letter. That’s why I saw the news of an OFFICIAL product like this called D&D Beyond and got excited:

We are excited to announce development of D&D Beyond, an official digital toolset for use with the Dungeons & Dragons fifth edition rules. We have partnered with Curse to take D&D players beyond pen and paper, providing a rules compendium, character builder, digital character sheets, and more—all populated with official D&D content. D&D Beyond aims to make game management easier for both players and Dungeon Masters by providing high-quality tools available on any device, empowering beginners and veterans alike!

“D&D Beyond speaks to the way gamers are able to blend digital tools with the fun of storytelling around the table with your friends,” said Nathan Stewart, Senior Director of Dungeons & Dragons. “These tools represent a way forward for D&D, and we’re excited to get them into the hands of players soon!”

Visit dndbeyond.com to sign up for the beta now. Further details about the beta and launch are coming soon!


 

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Picture of the new MST3K “Mads” in Full Costume Revealed!

With just around a month away, the VERY tight-lipped staff over at Netflix and The Satellite of Love have finally started to trickle a tiny sliver of what’s to come with the new season of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Funded in part by a largely successful Kickstarter campaign in late 2015, this will be the first season of new episodes to grace the airwaves for nearly twenty years. Felicia Day posted the following image to Twitter today, finally showing off Kinga Forester and TV’s Son of TV’s Frank in full mad scientist garb!

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Some Takeaways / thoughts –

  • Patton Oswalt is my favorite stand-up comedian, so I was pumped from day one when he was announced for this role. he definitely has the grimace of an evil scientist down.
  • Wonder how much like Pearl Kinga is?
  • The set looks like the Deep 13 set, love the heart shaped gate.
  • The new “mads” logo seems to be a “bonehead”…awesome!
  • Love the black overcoats – almost a season 1 feel, or perhaps they aren’t scientists are pure torturers!?
  • I can’t wait for next month!

 

Oh and if you didn’t see this, here’s an older promo image showing the “mads” in white, as well as the majority of the new cast:

mst3k-on-netflix


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Top Ten Game Titles That Sound Inappropriate if your Mind is in The Gutter

A great title is a definite asset to a game, as nobody wants to be stuck with the opposite.  But sometimes, in the search for that “perfect title” a loss of irony, double entendre, or common sense can result in these very unfortunate game titles.  I had a lot of fun looking for these, and noticed that without trying I mostly found Sega Titles, who knew Sega was this perverted!  As always, these are in no particular order.


Wild Woody – Sega CD

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Nuts & Milk – NES

 

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Booby Kids – NES

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Sticky Balls – Gizmondo

 

sbbig

 


 

Tongue of the Fatman – PC 

tongue of the fat man

 


 

Touch Dic – DS

 

touch

 


 

Seaman – DC

 

seaman

 


 

6 Inch My Darling – Saturn

6inch-f

 


 

Alone in the Dark: One Eyed Jack’s Revenge – PS

aloneinthedark2du1

 


 

GOLF Magazine Presents 36 Great Holes Starring Fred Couples – Sega 32X

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We Were Abused as Gamers Last Gen, aka Why I Have Soured on Nintendo

I would like to get a Nintendo Switch at some point, but I refuse to buy any system at launch since they are almost always “buggy” in some way. But that isn’t the only reason I’m hesitant to purchase a new Nintendo product. I used to be a HUGE Nintendo fanboy – when everyone else had a PS3 or X-Box 360, there I was waving nunchucks around like Chuck Norris. Then something happened, in 2010-11 Nintendo basically lost my support. They fell into the trap of thinking of the consumers as dollar signs and stopped caring about us. They were just another Japanese company lashing out at fans for something, they themselves, had done.

Let’s go back to that time period. A few weeks ago, I posted an article about how “the West” had been robbed of the third Valkyria Chronicles game at around the same time. Despite a new side-game coming out (7 years later), it seemed as if poor decisions had ultimately “killed” the franchise stone-dead. Up until recently I was in a similar frame of mind with Namco Bandai, who for years, made excuses and shifted blame for poor sales of numerous games in the west, only to suddenly see a spike in sales once they actually tried a mysterious thing called “promoting stuff”. Then we had Capcom. In perhaps the most infuriating example of this out of all the rest, They cancelled a game that was going to be called Mega man Legends 3, and went on a twitter tirade passive-aggressively blaming us for something they did.

it’s a shame the fans didn’t want to get more involved if we saw there was an audience for MML3 people might change minds

— Actual tweet from Capcom

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So yeah, Back to Nintendo, they were the straw to break the camels back for me. Remember Operation Rainfall? Something like six years ago, people were furious that Nintendo started blaming fans for not releasing games, even though they basically stopped supporting their own console in 2010. Fans started up a protest, and eventually got all of the games released, but it took years. During that time Nintendo acted like feudal lords that were annoyed by the mere peasants demanding things. The Wii went from a household name to a ghost machine that was literally collecting dust on many a shelf, like your Grandmother’s ancient 8 track player, and Nintendo did not seem to care. Having something to play during that time would have made it less likely for me to jump ship back to Sony, but there I was buying a PlayStation 3 like I said I wasn’t going to do.

My Question for all of you is: How can game companies complain about us not buying their games when they have abused us as consumers for the better part of this decade?

The first few years of the generation seemed to be characterized by a weird release pattern where all game releases were crowded around holiday periods leaving the long boring spring and summer months devoid of anything worthwhile. This made smaller games that had the audacity to get released in the autumn have an immediate death sentence. These guys immediately got buried under an avalanche of Madden, Call of Duty, and Mario games. This situation also made many people unable to afford all the “hot” games when they were still popular making folks resort to the used game market, rentals, and borrowing games from friends. Despite economists always saying that entertainment media is “recession proof”, people can’t spend all their money on games right now.

 

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Disaster: Day of Crisis

This has made a lot of these companies super-selective on what games get released, and in the case of Japanese companies that basically means no games at all most of the time (Thanks Konami!). I find it amazing that fans ask for games all the time, and are basically told that they are idiots. I remember Nintendo of America’s President Reggie Fils-Aime famously saying that he personally axed an American release for Disaster: Day of Crisis because he personally did not like it. So here we have Reggie saying that he “doesn’t think Disaster is a $50 game,” and regards the audio as “laughable.” Thanks Reggie, I seem to remember that being the summer where the Wii had no games at all, and the reason I ended up buying a PSP. But that’s not all; here is a list of first and second party Nintendo games that America never saw that could haave kept the Wii going a bit longer:

Another Code: R
Captain Rainbow
Chibi Robo New Play Control
Disaster: Day of Crisis
Eyeshield 21: The Field’s Greatest Warriors
Fatal Frame 4
Fatal Frame 2 remake
Line Attack Heroes
Pandora’s Tower
Pikmin 2 New Play Control
Takt of Magic
The Last Story
Xenoblade Chronicles

Zangeki no Reginleiv (aka Dynamic Slash)

Note: the games in red were those protest games and eventually came out, just much later on.

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Another Code R

Most of these were already translated into English, and yet sat there in Japan and even Europe, never to see the American gamer. Most gamers wouldn’t even care if the Wii was region-free like their handheld market used to be, but we couldn’t even import games unless we wanted to mod the stupid thing. Nintendo isn’t the only company guilty of this as I could call out Namco-Bandai, SEGA, and basically any Japanese company for these same shenanigans. Thankfully today, more and more consoles are once again region-less – finally I don’t have to modify hardware to buy a game.

So what happened after that in 2011? We got blamed for all shortcomings, Capcom yelled at fans on their message boards for being pushy, SEGA blamed pirates for everything, and others lashed out at casual gamers as if they are some sort of virus impeding on the gaming market. The problem is that these problems including, but not limited to: company closings, firings, layoffs, and even sales not meeting expectations all boil down to game companies taking us for granted.

fuck konami
Type “konami” into Google and see how the fans feel…

Somewhere some idiot got the idea that we somehow work for them, and not the other way around. We are seen as dumb sheep, a collective mass of slobbering idiots that should open our wallets for any game that rolls out just because they say so. God forbid we ask for games we actually want like import games, innovative games, new genres, and artistic games. Hell no, we’re going to play another franchise sports game or shooter, and we’re going to like it. If a niche game or something out of the ordinary does come out, it always seems to be set up for failure due to a stealth release, no advertising, or releasing it amongst the aforementioned Christmas avalanche. And don’t forget the inevitable “rubbing it in our faces” where the company basically says “see we told you that game would fail, we know all”.

 

Gone are the days when game companies actually hired marketing and PR types to, oh I don’t know, market and publicize games; we as gamers are expected to do that as well. Word of mouth is one thing, but when a company completely fails to mention a games release, and then whines about it not selling, and then blames the fan base – something is wrong. Since when did the consumer become the PR department? Since when are we expected to proselytize the virtues of a game that we may or may not like just because the company is too lazy to do their job?

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I bet Kevin Spacey was super cheap

I know money is tough, but spending millions of dollars to have Hollywood voice actors appear in games, having lavish parties at big hotels, and generally pissing money away on nothing worthwhile is not only a lifestyle that has ended with the economic shakeup, but it’s pure irresponsibility. Much like the banks getting bailed out a few years ago, we are there to bail out the game companies. Instead of making a game that holds onto a budget, these guys make lavish Hollywood affairs that cost millions of dollars. This means that we are supposed to buy insane amounts of these games just to let the games break even.

Up to this point, we are given ultimatums: we must buy game X in order to see game Y released. If that doesn’t happen we get chastised like dogs that soiled the carpet. Sorry gamer you didn’t buy Barbie Horse Adventure; I guess you won’t get that new role playing game you wanted to play. Why do this? Then they vaguely say that the game “might be coming out” just to keep our hopes up, hoping we’ll forget about it in the meantime. “we’re listening to you guys, keep it up!” is a common bit of misdirection we always hear. truth is, we won’t see that game, they have no intention of releasing it at all. The simple act of the “bait and switch” that we get sometimes is not only unheard of in just about any other industry, but it really shows how much we are truly valued by these big wig game publishing houses.

We need to stand up as gamers and lay our collective feet down. Enough is enough and it’s time for a change in the way we are treated. As gamers we aren’t your guinea pigs, test group, PR department, marketing firm, and infinite money supply.  You need to take some responsibility on your shortcomings and do your damn jobs. We are not faceless barcodes with giant wallets for you to reap, we are a fan base and we can just as easily become fans of something else. If the masochistic ways that we have been treated do not stop, the collapse of the game industry will be at your feet. Your move, game companies.


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Leiji Matsumoto ‘s World Illustrations Album Animage (TV Land Extra Edition) 1977

I recently snagged an art-book for fairly cheap that I’ve been trying to get for a while. According to google translate, it’s called  Leiji Matsumoto ‘s World: Illustrations Album Animage (TV Land Extra Edition) 1977 and appears to be some sort of a magazine in the vein of those special edition Time Magazine checkout line books. It contains a handful of artwork from Leiji Matsumoto from various properties like Lightning Ozma, Submarine Super 99, Captain Harlock, The Cockpit and more.

lieji matsumoto animage 1977 8

The above is the English version of the image in the book, I didn’t want to break the spine to get the scan.

lieji matsumoto animage 1977 1


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Milestones

While I’m still trying to rebuild this humble page after year(s) of neglect, I did notice some good news:

  • I just got 1,000 likes recently!
  • I also passed 500,000 pageviews!
  • and finally, I now have 500 followers!

Thank you all for reading this hacky website when there are so many more out there. I really appreciate it.

The Grindhouse – Final Fantasy: Legend of the Crystals – A Recap of episode 1

The Grindhouse is a new feature kicking off here on Arcadia Pod. This article is NOT a movie review, but a detailed recap of a film set up in such a way that you really don’t have to watch it. I will watch questionable movies so you don’t have to. As this goes on, expect me to go over dollar bin anime, bad cartoons, and even the occasional TV series! Without further ado, here is the first edition, where will be looking at Final Fantasy – Legend of the Crystals episode 1. The next 4 of these will be about this train wreck of a show.

When I first got into anime, it wasn’t at all like it was today. It wasn’t the wide selection of movies and other merchandise currently available. I can fondly remember going to our crappy little video store in town way back in 1998 and rummaging through tapes looking for something cool to watch. This was before DVD players got really big and the anime market seemed to be old VHS tapes locked away near the “adults only” section. All the titles that this dingy, poorly-lit store had were of the exploitative nature, mainly focusing on nude girls and bloody disembowelments – a real treat for any self-respecting sixteen year old kid.

Aside from classics such as Vampire Hunter D and Akira, my friends and I would ALWAYS rent one movie in particular: Final Fantasy – Legend of the Crystals. In hindsight, I have no idea why we actually rented this movie, as we pretty much mocked the whole thing. It was basically something that we would make jokes about due to some poor choices that the movie seemed to take at almost every turn. That didn’t keep us from watching it over and over again, meaning that some of the horrendous plot and bad writing were hidden directly behind a big old layer of charm.

final fantasy legend of crystals 1

The main problem that occurs right from the get-go is that this OVA (direct to video basically) series has very little to do with Final Fantasy despite it purportedly existing as some sort of sequel to Final Fantasy V. It’s almost like some guy that played the games was telling an uninterested writer about the plot over the phone; the writer, while starring at a Ralph Bakshi poster, cranked out what he could, but ended up with this. The tone is all wrong, the music is wrong, and it just really doesn’t feel like a Final Fantasy movie.

The beginning of the film brings a false sense of security for anyone expecting this to be decent, as the main theme from Final Fantasy V, Tour de Japon, plays for a bit here. When I first watched this, I of course had not played Final Fantasy V, but as an older gamer, that was a nice touch. This leads directly into the first scene showing a man sitting on a Cliffside looking at a brewing storm. At this point I’m quite worried as to how this movie is going to be written because this character basically starts repeating every line he says one additional time. In this way we learn that “A storm is coming” not once but twice. I know he’s talking metaphorically about an upcoming battle that this movie will no doubt present, but the storm in the background makes it look like he’s some sort of lonely man that talks to himself all day.

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We learn that this sad old man is in fact the grandfather of the movie’s heroine Linaly, a girl who is supposedly a descendant of Bartz, the Final Fantasy V’s protagonist. Since this takes place hundreds of years after the events in the game, we will sadly not get to see any of those characters, save one that we meet later on. Grandfather announces that it is basically up to him to stop the upcoming storm, one which he can sense because of the “evil winds” and starts rushing out the door. If my grandfather started saying crap like that, it would result in a one way ticket straight to the home. Linaly won’t have that and insists that she needs to go instead or at least tag along with her Grandfather as if to humor him in his senile dementia. It was hard to pay attention to this as my eyes were drawn to Linaly’s ridiculously short miniskirt that seems to be defying some sort of natural law. I wasn’t looking in any sort of sexual way, but looking simply in a sense of sheer wonder.

final fantasy legend of crystals 3

Pretty soon we finally get to meet the actual “main character” of this whole ordeal – Prettz. Unlike the usual modern Final Fantasy hero, Prettz is not a douche-bag emo guy covered in zippers and belts that talks in ellipses, but a goofy loud-mouth who won’t mind his own business. When he sees Linaly and grand—you know I’m tired of typing “Grandfather”, from now on his game is Gomez. So anyway Gomez and Linaly are in a boat traveling to one of the temples to see what is going on, and here comes Prettz chasing them around, yelling that “old people and girls should not be alone!”. Since I never had the illusion that this planet was populated by incestuous pedophiles, one can only assume that Prettz is a jerk. When declined as the pair’s bodyguard, he gets mad and insists on going anyway. In fact, he throws such a big tantrum that he collapses a bridge in a “super-comical way”. Aw sweet! Jar Jar Binks is the main character!

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It’s at this point that I want to point out that Prettz has the most true-to-date 90’s attire on that anyone possibly could. Note his shaved-under rat-tail hairstyle, sleeveless T-shirt, and comfy pants. While those aren’t exactly the class of Zubaz pants, they still take me back to a much simpler time; a time when our fantasy heroes did not dress like Lady Gaga when they fight monsters. Seriously, all Prettz needs is a fanny pack and a gym membership and I’d imagine he was an off-duty WWF wrestler.

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This whole plotline gets pretty tiring at this point, and Prettz has only been on screen for a short while. While watching I was basically worried that the movie would consist of Prettz chasing around Linaly and whining the whole time. Prettz gets a huge motorcycle and silly armor to help in his chase, much to the chagrin of Gomez. More slapstick ensues, until we finally get some worthwhile dialog where Gomez relates to Linaly what the “evil wind” is all about. It looks like the wind crystal must be in danger and he could sense the trouble. This is cut short as Gomez comically trips for no reason whatsoever and tumbles a ridiculous distance down a hill, way to take this movie seriously guys. So far the overall tone of this movie is somewhere around a morning children’s show, not the caliber of the games in my opinion.

final fantasy legend of crystals 7

Suddenly and literally for no reason at all, a huge demon-like creature with eight eyes leaps from the ground and makes Linaly decide to cast a spell. Since Linaly is speaking as if she is going to summon a creature, I’m at this point wondering what sort of awesome creature will come out. Could it be Ifrit? Shiva? Bahamut? Sadly no, we get this:

final fantasy legend of crystals 6

That’s right folks, a stupid looking naked……chicken thing? Please God tell me that isn’t supposed to be a Chocobo!

Gomez apparently shares my opinion of the matters and begins to slam the beast left and right, saying things like “couldn’t you do better?”. Linaly is sad that a half-assed Chocobo is the only thing that her mighty summoning powers can muster, and I can see why, did you see how stupid that thing looked!

final fantasy legend of crystals 8

Finally Prettz shows some A-game and rushes the monster on his motorcycle with a huge katana, this not only kills the creature stone dead, but makes Gomez look like a tool for raising such a fuss about him tagging along. After they escape to what appears to be an inn, Gomez lays in bed worried that he is too old to carry on this adventure, this leads Prettz to basically heckle him for being old. Gomez yells at him and tells him to go home. Linaly sets out on her own, only to have Prettz follow her out and along the way. We get a few minutes of glorious dialog where Prettz says he wants to go, and Linaly rejects him. As this pattern has been the majority of the actual spoken dialog of the show so far, my initial worries of the plot of the show may not seem to unfounded. I mean seriously this is basically the movies script up to this point:

Gomez: “A storm is coming”
Gomez: “A storm is coming”
Prettz: “I wanna go!”
Gomez: “NO!”
Prettz: “I wanna go!”
Gomez: “NO!”
Prettz: “I wanna go!”
Gomez: “NO!”
(Repeat infinitely)

Just as with the monster, mere minutes ago, something suddenly leaps out of the ground towards the party, possibly a subtle hint at the random nature of battles in the old games. But this thing isn’t a monster – it’s a huge garishly pink spaceship of some sort. Once it fully lifts out of the ground, we’re told by Prettz that these are in fact sky pirates trying to kill them. A door opens on the ship and what appears to be a dominatrix and her two husky female sex slaves rise from within. Her name is Rouge, and she wants Prettz’s motorcycle apparently. I would too if I had to fly around in a ship as ostentatious as that pirate ship she has. Prettz makes short work of the pirates using some bombs that he apparently carries around at all times, but I doubt that’s the last that we’ve seen of these guys.

final fantasy legend of crystals 9

They finally make it to the Wind temple, the first of four that I’m sure we are to encounter in this series, and just as soon as they get there Prettz runs out for no explicable reason leaving Linaly to solve the puzzle of how to enter the temple on her own. We soon find that Prettz has seemingly commandeered the pirate ship we just saw and is holding it hostage with his bandoleer of goofy bombs. By goofy, I don’t mean in a general way, like “oh hey look at those goofy bombs”. These stupid incendiaries actually have smiley faces on them and open up to show the face before they explode. We know this because Prettz insists on clapping them together like a set of garish castanets in order to intimidate the bondage ship’s crew. No doubt Prettz shops at the same weapons shop as the Joker. This of course happens for no reason at all, because Linaly has actually managed to solve the puzzle of how to gain access to the temple all on her own without her jackass buddy.

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Next thing you know Prettz drives the airship through a narrow crack in the surrounding cave and crashes it into the temple. This draws the attention of another person with an equally goofy looking airship by the name of Valkus. Valkus always struck me as the “Cid” character of this show, as not only was he in command of an airship, but he is basically a badass.

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As our heroes walk into the room containing the wind crystal, the scene cuts to someone talking in a robotic gibberish voice, talking about how “the other three crystals are in our hands”. This voice seems to be from a female subordinate of some guy sitting on a huge brain in the middle of the room. That’s right I said brain, as in part of our human anatomy, except this time super-sized. He of course spots a few almost sexual sounding villain catchphrases like “my body aches with excitement”, these are all off-putting.

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What follows is basically the most awkward thing in this entire series, and a scene that would live in infamy for my friends and me. Linaly grasps the crystal only to have it enter her body through the chest.

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She tumbles to the ground looking ill and the camera quickly cuts to her hind-quarters which are now glowing.

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Both turn around and stare at her butt as it radiates a warm golden light.

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Maybe this is why her dress is so unreasonably short, that way we can see her butt glowing whenever she eats too much Mexican food. This is quite possibly the lamest excuse to have fan-service EVER in an anime, and to make it a plot device!

That’s it for episode one, join me again soon as we gaze into the warm golden light that is episode two…


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The Monday Meme: Party!

party

Image from: Tiger Mask W


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A Look at All the Cameos in Tiger Mask W

I’ve recently started watching the winter 2016/7 anime Tiger Mask W, a wrestling anime featuring stars from New Japan Pro Wrestling. New fans might think that all of the colorful characters are from the minds of producers alone, but I’m here to show that a handful of these grapplers are actual people! This has always been something cool when a wrestling anime comes out in Japan, as Jushin Thunder Liger had an anime show, and guys like Terry Funk appeared in Ultimate M.U.S.C.L.E. I’ll eventually review Tiger Mask W, but for right now check out some characters you’ll get to see if you start watching this.


 

TIGER MASK

Naoto Azuma is the main protagonist of the anime series, which is actually a sequel to a 1968 manga and 1971 anime series. While Naoto is a fictional character made for this show, many people have actually portrayed the character in real life. There have been a handful of wrestling anime characters that have spilled over into the real world, and Tiger Mask is perhaps the longest running.

  • Tiger Mask I Satoru Sayama
  • Tiger Mask II Mitsuharu Misawa
  • Tiger Mask III Koji Kanemoto
  • Tiger Mask IV Yoshihiro Yamazaki
  • Tiger Mask V Ikuhisa Minowa
  • Tiger Mask W Kota Ibushi

TIGER THE DARK

Takuma Fujii is a new character in the anime called “Tiger the Dark”. He is basically this anime’s version of the Black Tiger who has always been a rival of the Tiger Mask character. A lot of famous foreign wrestlers have portrayed “Black Tiger” through the years, even the legendary Eddie Guerrero once held the title! There is currently a version of the actual character of “Tiger the Dark” currently in NJPW and is feuding with the real life Tiger Mask W.


SPRING TIGER

Haruna Takaoka aka Spring Tiger is the female protagonist of the series. Like the previous two, she is a made up character, but is not wholly based on fiction. A female Tiger Mask iteration, called Tiger Dream, was played by female wrestler Candy Okutsu in the mid-1990s. unfortunately, Okutsu being injury-prone and having to take several sabbaticals from the ring, the character was easily forgotten by the fans and eventually abandoned.


KAZUCHIKA OKADA

Kazuchika Okada is based on the real-life professional wrestler of the same name. Okada joins Naoto in his fight against GWM. In real life Okada is a very accomplished wrestler who has held the IWGP Heavyweight title on four occasions as well as a ton of other accomplishments. He did have a breif, and largely forgettable run in america in TNA (Total Nonstop Action) Wrestling.


HIROSHI TANAHASHI

Hiroshi Tanahashi is based on the real-life professional wrestler of the same name. A wrestling ace who helps Naoto in training. In real life, he is a former seven-time IWGP Heavyweight Champion, one-time IWGP Intercontinental Champion, two-time IWGP Tag Team Champion and two-time NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Champion. Tanahashi holds the record for most reigns as the IWGP Heavyweight Champion, while his fifth reign holds the record for most successful defenses, with eleven.


YUJI NAGATA

Yuji Nagata is based on the real-life professional wrestler of the same name. Aside of wrestling, he’s also involved with the management of NJPW. Most American fans will recognize him for his tenure in World Championship Wrestling in 1997-8 during the height of the Monday Night Wars.


TOGI MAKABE

Togi Makabe is based on the real-life professional wrestler of the same name. In the show, he has a sweet tooth and hosts a famous blog about sweets, being so obsessed with them that he can lack motivation without sweets. One cool tidbit – The character is voiced by the real Togi Makabe.


KIMIHIKO OZAKI

Kimihiko Ozaki is based on a real-life ring announcer in NJPW.


TOMOAKI HONMA

Tomoaki Honma is based on the real-life professional wrestler of the same name. He is currently working for New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW). He is a former one-time IWGP Tag Team Champion and a two-time World Tag League winner with Togi Makabe.


TOMOHIRO ISHII

Tomohiro Ishii is based on the real-life professional wrestler of the same name.Though pushed for most of his career as an undercarder without any major championship wins, Ishii gathered a cult following, until he was too popular to ignore. Since then he has gained tag championships, singles titles and even the ROH Television title.


YOSHI-HASHI

Yoshi-Hashi is based on the real-life professional wrestler of the same name. While he was almost an enhancement talent of sorts in real life, he has slowly started to win occasional matches. a feat that earned him a PWI ranking of 314 of the top 500 singles wrestlers in the PWI 500 in 2016.


BILLY THE KIDMAN

Billy the Kidman is a fictional character in Tiger Mask W, but it’s funny to not that there is a real-life wrestler from the late 90’s – 2000’s named Billy Kidman.


 

BULLET CLUB

Tama Tonga and Bad Luck Fale are real life members of the gaijin (foreigner) heel stable “The Bullet Club”. Also represented is Kenny Omega who is the current stable leader. Previous members of the group include WWE’s Anderson and Gallows, Finn Balor and AJ Styles.


QUEEN ELIZABETH AND PAYNE FOX

While not a direct cameo, Queen Elizabeth and Payne Fox are obviously modeled after WWE women’s champions Charlotte Flair (daughter of Ric Flair) and Becky Lynch.


TETSUYA NAITO

Tetsuya Naito is based on the real-life professional wrestler of the same name. Naito is currently in his first reign as the IWGP Intercontinental Champion, while also being a former IWGP Heavyweight and NEVER Openweight Champion as well as IWGP Tag Team and IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion with former partner Yujiro Takahashi, with whom he teamed as No Limit. In addition to those, Naito is also a one-time winner of NJPW’s premier singles tournament, the G1 Climax, having won it in 2013, and the New Japan Cup, winning it in 2016. In 2016, Tokyo Sports named Naito the wrestler of the year.


BLACKOUT

Blackout is a robot (sure why not) from the Tiger’s Den, he serves as the gatekeeper of the Hell in the Hole match being the last challenge to face. He bares more than a passing resemblance to WWE’s wrestler The Undertaker.


METAL BROTHERS

Metal Brothers I & II are a couple of masked wrestlers that make an appearance. They bare a resemblance to the WWE’s legends the Road Warriors.


FUKUWARA MASK

Fukuwara Mask isn’t a real character, but his “gimmick” is very similar to a number of clownish wrestlers from Osaka Pro like Ebessan, Kikutaro and Kuishinbo Kamen. He dresses with a Hyottoko mask and common clothes, giving him a ridiculous appearance. Fukuwara Mask’s focus is in providing laughs and serving as a comic-relief by deliberately acting like a fool in his matches, which the audience enjoys.


And More!

There are other references and mentions like Jushin Thunder Liger, Captain New Japan, Toru Yano, and members of Los Ingobernables de Japon such as Evil and Bushi. Here’s hoping they do more of this show, as I would love to see a lot of of the real life wrestlers from NJPW! Stay tuned for a full review of this show soon, I still need to finish it up and I’ll let you know what I thought!


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Cyborg 009 – Call of Justice (2017)

For me, one of the most overlooked and underappreciated anime / manga franchises out there (at least in America) is the venerable Cyborg 009 series by the late Shotaro Ishinomori. Created in 1963, Cyborg 009 could be considered Japan’s first superhero property, and one of, if not, the first fully racially integrated superhero team stories out there. There have been countless comics, movies and TV shows made for the franchise, this being the most recent. It should be no surprise to my readers that I really like older anime and things that have interesting art styles, and I find Ishinomori’s versions of the classic 60’s manga style to be at least up there with Tezuka.

Sadly, I recall the art style of the 2001-2 show (that aired on Cartoon Network) to be a dividing force in anime fandom at the time, with some of the more “mainstream” fans disliking it “because it looked old”. Thankfully 2017 is an entirely different beast, and while this show has had a modern facelift, anime fans seem to be more willing to try different things today which is great! Don’t be surprised if I do more Cyborg 009 reviews soon, as the 50th anniversary has brought a handful of new shows, films, and comics to enjoy.

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The main story of Cyborg 009 involves a shady militarized weapons manufacturer and terrorist organization called Black Ghost, and their newest project – cyborg super soldiers. Nine people from around the world are kidnapped and forced to undergo experiments which turn them into cyborgs with superhuman powers. Realizing that they have been wronged, and that Black Ghost is a threat to humanity itself, the cyborgs band together in order to stop Black Ghost in its’ goal of starting the next world war.

This story picks up years after Black Ghost has been eliminated, and the Cyborgs are trying to live as close to normal lives as they can, only to have that ripped away from a new threat – Metahumans with abilities like their own that have seemingly been ordered to kill the Cyborgs. Called “The Blessed” these guys are all sorts of zany bad guys such as a Cowboy that can control the weather, and a man that can alter gravity at will.

Cyborg 009 – Call of Justice is a “Netflix original” that was originally released as three films in Japan. It was produced by Production I.G and OLM Digital and distributed by Toho with Kenji Kamiyama (he directed  Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex ) as executive producer and chief of the project, and Kokai Kakimoto (Psycho-Pass movie unit director) as director of the films themselves. Netflix basically took this footage and edited it into a twelve episode series that premiered last month (Feb 2017).

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I mentioned earlier that there was a “facelift” of sorts for the animation and character designs, and for once this is a modernization that isn’t terrible. The Cyborgs in Cyborg 009 have always had iconic red costumes adorned with yellow buttons and long yellow scarves. This motif is intact, but the suits have been “upgraded” to armored protective suits with yellow vent ports in the place of buttons. oh yeah, the yellow scarves are there! It’s subtle, but it’s a welcome upgrade for the long running series. Another change is that the character designs have been tweaked a bit, even from the 2012 film 009 Re:Cyborg, also from production I.G.

While this may be the farthest departure from the classic art style by Shotaro Ishinomori, the character  designs are good, in honestly my only quibble is that every iteration seems to make Jet Link (Cyborg 002) look less and less stylized that his original design. Jet used to have crazy spike hair and a huge hooked nose, now he just has a big nose and shaggy blond hair as if played by a young Owen Wilson. This isn’t a deal breaker, but I wish classic character designs wouldn’t be hidden sometimes – this was also an issue for me with the recent Harlock CGI film. The flipside to that sentiment is that thankfully, Cyborg 008 – an African man named Pyunma, has been toned down as to not look like any sort of blackface character as he previously was depicted. Granted, this hasn’t been an issue since the 70’s or so, but seeing the original 1960’s version of this shows Aquaman is pretty uncomfortable at times.

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You may have noticed that this show uses 3D CGI graphics to render characters rather than a traditional style that mimics old-school cel art. Japan has caught a lot of flack for years in the way that they handle this sort of animation as it seems somehow “cheaper” than American and even European counterparts. This sadly isn’t an actual technical limitation, but a misguided stylistic choice. The following is an excerpt from an Anime News Network column on the issue that may shed some light:

Part of the problem is that not only are CG artists trying to imitate the look of 2D animation, but they’re trying to imitate an aesthetic that was born out of cost-cutting. If anime had always been lavishly funded, it might have consistently been animated on 1’s or 2’s (that is, 24 or 12 frames per second, or a cel every 1 or 2 film frames). But it’s usually far less. To try and match that, CG artists have started rendering at lower frame rates — 6 or even 4 frames per second.

This style is jarring to western fans used to things like CGI animated films from Disney, Dreamworks, or Pixar. Hell there are even crappy children’s shows that look infinitely better than a lot of CGI anime – a recent whipping boy for this is 2016’s Berserk TV series – check out the bloodbath that unfolded after that show premiered to see how passionate fans are about this issue.

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So where does Cyborg 009 – Call of Justice fall into this picture? Well, thankfully it looks pretty good – it’s by no means the best I’ve seen, but the animators made some cool choices that show a lot of depth and show off action very well. There are a few janky scenes here or there, but for the most part the animation seemed on par with shows like Cartoon Network’s recent Green Lantern series or Disney’s Tron show. It seems that Japan is finally drifting away from the fake low framerate effect on their shows, now they just have to work out stiffness a bit more, and we’ll really start to see the style come into it’s own.

I did forget to mention earlier, but I watched this anime in English on Netflix, so we have an anime dub in play. This one was produced by California-based Bang Zoom! Entertainment who used to always do dubs for Manga Entertainment releases. They are usually a solid studio with this production being no exception. I haven’t followed a lot of today’s voice actors very much, but everyone involved seemed to do a great job, and there wasn’t anyone in the cast that grated on my nerves.

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All-in-all I really enjoyed this show, and hope more people check it out. Thankfully, it exists as an entry point into the franchise and really doesn’t require any knowledge of a 50+ year old back-story, but it also doesn’t alienate long-term fans. Perhaps the plot is a bit “too safe” to be anything immediately classic, but it’s a fitting chapter in a long story. If you think this looks cool, or want to see what is basically “Japanese X-Men” I’d give this show a shot!


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PTSD or Weakness: Real Experts on Why Samus Didn’t Shoot

Close to a decade ago, I worked for a gaming website called Gamrfeed, sadly the site folded and was absorbed back into it’s parent website VGchartz a long time ago. When I started working at my current job in 2011, I sadly did not have time to continue producing articles on the schedule that was required, so I had to drop it. I was really proud of some of the work I did on there, and do not want it to disappear into the ether as most websites do after a while. I’ve been posting a few of these “rescued articles” recently, and I feel that this one was probably one of my best. Since this article is from 2010, the references are incredibly out of date, but that should not stand in the way of the information presented.


Videogames often get a bad reputation for glorifying war and using it as a sort of exploitation.  Often they are criticized for brushing aside the horrors of war and battle for the sense that fighting is “awesome”, much like a Hollywood film.  An argument could be raised that most gamers don’t care about such things in games, or that they don’t want to see it.  Despite this general feeling, a few companies have been trying to express the bad side of conflict in their games.  These messages include the fact that war is not all about shooting faceless bad guys, and that we should change the way we look at it, but sadly this is lost sometimes.  A clear cut case of a situation such as this occurred a few weeks ago, as an anticipated Wii game called Metroid: Other M hit the store shelves.

Before the game actually hit, videos of the game’s cut-scenes began to scatter to the net much to the dismay of some gamers.  Samus Aran, the games heroic female lead, was seen to be given a lot more emotion and personality than ever before in a Metroid game.  Problem was, Samus has issues apparently, and this angered some fans.  The main offender was a scene in which Samus is seen to become weak and unresponsive in the face of her biggest enemy, a huge creature named Ridley.  I was shocked to see some of the responses that the video had garnered on Youtube, such as these:

(I have censored the curse words, but left the bad punctuation intact)

 

“Is it bad to have an emotional s*** who beat the living hell out of this thing 100s of other times, but breaks down crying this time? Yes. Very bad. They took some strong bad ass character and made them into a wimpy emotional s***. “

 

“[Samus is] a hardened professional bounty hunter, someone who’s been portrayed as a strong, fierce woman, who’s been on countless missions prior, faced much more frightening enemies, and has fought, killed and seen Ridley resurrected multiple times before this suddenly has a mental breakdown a cries in fear at the sight of an enemy she’s killed so many times prior to this? F***, you’re right, it’s just common sense. “

 

This attitude has been a common vibe for the past few weeks, as many felt that the game deviated from the established characterization given to Samus.  Some even went as far as to call the game sexist, as Samus was shown in a “weak way.”  The problem is that in the context of the game, the developers are trying very hard to imply that Samus suffers from some variation of an anxiety disorder, such as PTSD.  Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is one of the many things that folks do not like talking about when it comes to warfare, which is a shame.  During the Vietnam War the United States Department of Veterans Affairs estimated that 830,000 Vietnam War veterans suffered symptoms of PTSD.

This is not the first time there has been talk of PTSD in the Metroid series, as one of the canonized mangas (Japanese comic books) written to flesh out the story leading up to the first game showed a similar occurrence:

I was under the impression that the aforementioned scene and the comic pretty much solidified her status as coping with the disorder, but the negative talk online got me thinking about it. My thoughts are that folks do not understand such a disorder, and were saying things like that due to ignorance of the situation instead of sheer malice.  PTSD is one of those sensitive areas many do not want to talk about, so it can be understandable.

The problem is, it was hard for ME to have an opinion on the matter because I do not suffer from a similar disorder nor do I have a close friend or immediate family member that does.  My main question was, “Is Samus’s behavior in the game a true depiction of what PTSD can do to someone, or was the development team going for another angle?”  I set out to actually interview some folks that know what it’s like to be in situations like this, and get their opinions.  I was able to round up a war veteran coping with PTSD, as well as a mental wellness professional.  Here is what they had to say:

 

The Interviewees are:

Darian Koehne – Former Army (rank withheld), suffers from PTSD

John M. Grohol, PsyD.,  founder and CEO of Psych Central.com

 

Q: My questions today are about PTSD, what are your experiences with the disorder?

Koehne: I suffer with the disorder on a daily basis due to the fact that I am a combat vet the served in the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom.  I can’t even play games that depict the wars anymore.   It’s too real and I find myself dazing off while really into the game.  I have the same kinds of flashbacks because some the games are so real…and I know I am of sound mind, but I wake up and do security checks in the middle of night about 3 times a night.  I sleep in patterns of a couple hours at a time…I really did have to watch my 6 everywhere I went…. and it’s true when you see the death like that… it sticks with you and the smallest things set off some strong emotions… and the ones closest to us vets are the ones who can tell you even more….

Dr.  Grohol: I’m a mental health expert with a doctorate in clinical psychology (from Nova Southeastern University).

 

Q: I’d like you to watch the following video from a recent Videogame called “Metroid: Other M”.

(Clip was shown)

The context of the video is that Samus, the woman in the red and orange armor, has fought and seemingly defeated the creature (Ridley) in the video on two past occasions and assumed he was dead.  Her confrontations with Ridley all stem from it killing her family when she was a small child.  As we see in the video, Samus appears to be horrified to see Ridley after years of assuming he was dead, and simply freezes.  What are your thoughts on the video?

Koehne: That is very much so how PTSD works…. you daze out of it for long stretches and your brain seems to freeze and do its own thing or render you basically useless…

Dr.  Grohol: Mental disorders like PTSD are recognized disorders of brain and behavior that have decades worth of research and are based upon thousands of peer-reviewed studies. It is no different than having a disease like diabetes or Parkinson’s.

Q: This scene has caused a row amongst the gaming community.  Some feel she has PTSD, and others say that she should be able to “get over it” as she has fought him before and won. Can one simply “get over” something if it causes PTSD?

Koehne: A story answers this for my point of view.  I watched a man burn to death and pulled guard on his body so we could retrieve the remains and not let the insurgents disgrace the fallen soldier by dragging his body around the streets.  To this day I have a problem with barbecues which used to be one of my favorite things to do…. I still do BBQ every now and then…. but things have changed!!

Dr.  Grohol: If someone experience a trauma at an early age, such as having someone kill their family, then something like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is indeed a possible reaction. One does not simply “get over” a mental disorder because these are not choices we make in the first place. Who would consciously choose to be depressed, or to have PTSD? It’s an absurd argument.

Q: How realistic would a situation like the above be, or being a work of fiction, was it handled incorrectly?

Koehne: That is a great depiction of PTSD… and just to think soldiers have to deal with that in real life fights…

Dr. Grohol:   Someone who was in a situation where they had something to trigger a flashback, as what appears to occur in the video, could very possibly react in a similar manner — frozen in place, being unable to act or react for a time. Flashbacks themselves can be traumatizing, and different people will experience and react to them differently. The reaction of the character in the video was consistent with the way some people might react to meeting — once again — a murderer they thought they had previously killed.

 

Q: In closing, how do you feel about videogames beginning to handle tough problems like PTSD?

Koehne: Video games are a great way to teach the public… PTSD is very sensitive but people need to know we have alot of young soldiers coming home and families need to know how to recognize it so they can not become a victim of the PTSD but rather help support through the issue… I wish they would take on teaching the younger public that some people are disfigured from war and you shouldnt go around talking about them under you breath… THANKS FOR BRINGING SOME LIGHT TO PTSD…

Dr. Grohol: I think that video games have great potential to help shed some light onto serious concerns, like PTSD. If they can foster debate and discussion like this about a serious mental illness like PTSD, then they’ve done a great job in helping to educate people about these kinds of concerns.

 

While it’s apparent that Samus as a character most likely has PTSD, one can overlook the plight of many of our REAL servicemen and women no matter what country you reside in.  Having the opinion that someone should “get over it” is not only ignorant, but pretty disrespectful to those that have fought for our countries.  I hope these interviews have at least shed some light on something that a large amount of soldiers, rape victims, murder witnesses, and more have to deal with on a day to day basis.  For more information on PTSD and what you can do to help gain understanding or even help with research please check out some sites like Dr. Grohol’s Psych Central website.


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Concert Review: Voodoo Glow Skulls w/ The Uncouth 3-5-17

Any Concert that lets me where a ridiculous Lucha Libre mask during the show (see above picture), is an A+ in my book! Thankfully, the Voodoo Glow Skulls happened to have some at their merch table, so I was all set. In fact, Lucha masks should really become the new hot fashion tend, I think it’s well past time for it to fall into popularity. All Joking aside, I was able to attend a outdoor night show at a local music venue called The Riot Room this past weekend, one of my first punk shows (I usually do metal shows). I don’t normally attend punk shows, mostly because the type of punk I like is largely not super popular anymore. I’ve never been a huge fan of hardcore, despite liking a few bands, and that pop-punk explosion in the nineties was something I think most old-school punks would have utterly hated as it was basically Hot-Topic in audio form. Thankfully, this show happened to be both types I actually like listening to conveniently in one small package.

This was a very short show for two bands (two hours and some change) so I don’t have a ton to talk about, so think of this as a punk version of one of my reviews on here – short and sweet. As usual, get ready for bad cellphone pictures galore.


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Opener: The Uncouth

 

Here is the band’s Facebook Page

Bandcamp page

Oi! is the old-school UK punk music scene that popped up in the working class areas back in the late 1970’s and 1980’s with the direct goal of uniting all working class punks. The prevalent ideology of the original Oi! movement was a rough brand of working-class rebellion. Lyrical topics included unemployment, workers’ rights, harassment by police and other authorities, and oppression by the government. This is exactly the sort of music the Uncouth specializes in. Being a big fan of eighties music, I was amazed that a modern band could capture that sound so well as this concert.

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Hailing from Kansas City, Missouri, The Uncouth take the banner of all of their predecessors, and add a mid-western American flair to it – while the accent is different the sentiment is the same. One reason I don’t enjoy a lot of modern punk music is that it’s a bunch of songs about being a tough guy or losing a girlfriend, and thankfully this sort of band takes everything back to it’s roots. For instance, a song like Jonesy’s War is about a veteran of the Afghanistan war coming home to find that he can’t readjust to his old life. Resorting to drinking and other self-destructive tendencies, Jonesy is still basically at war, and as the chorus shouts, “Jonesy’s a prisoner of war!” It’s a far cry from bands like Sum 41 and Blink 182.


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Headliner: The Voodoo Glow Skulls

Their website

The other kind of punk music I like is ska-punk because I’m a huge fan of old-school ska music (and I’ll be getting to see The English beat in a few weeks). When most folks think of this type of music, they tehy of the sort of stuff that always plays at the Van’s Warped Tour every year, bands like Reel Big Fish. Not being a fan of those guys, I wwas pumped to see The Voodoo Glow Skulls coming to Kansas City after a buddy of mine showed me some of their stuff a while back. And honestly, any band where the lead singer sings a few songs wearing a lucha mask is great.

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Outside of California, this Mexican-American ska punk band is perhaps best known for having some of their songs pop up in movie soundtracks.The song “Shoot the Moon” from the band’s Firme album was used in the Pauly Shore movie Bio-Dome and the band’s version of “Used to Love Her” (originally written and recorded by Guns N’ Roses) is featured in the Mr. & Mrs. Smith soundtrack. They mix a lot of old school ska styling (they sort of remind me a bit of Bad Manners) with their Latino heritage into something  awesome. I feel like the United States is due to another ska revival after the one in the mid 90’s fizzled out – here’s hoping they sound like these guys!

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This show had a small, but great crowd, and I saw my first ska version of a mosh pit. Since I’m too old to jump in there (I usually mess my back up moshing) I admired it from afar, doing my standard head-banging that I usually bust out at shows. I will have to keep tabs on the local punk scene more, because if bands like this are starting to get big in Kansas City, I may have to attend more shows.


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Concert Review: Overkill w/ Nile and Whoracle 2/19/17

 

These past few weeks have been super busy for me, so I have been unable to get this typed up until now – I sat there with a page open on here and saved a draft with the title and that was about it. Before my memories slip away, I figure it might be a good idea to finish this. A few weeks ago, a friend and I made the trek over the state line to see a packed show at the Granada theater in Lawrence, Kansas. The headliner was Overkill – legendary New York / New Jersey thrash band, followed up by Nile – prominent death metal pioneers, and Whoracle, a local band. So far, I’ve really enjoyed seeing acts at The Granada in the past, Behemoth was easily one of my favorite shows I’ve ever attended, and that was there last year. Overkill was easily the act I was most excited to see, while I haven’t heard their entire discography, I always enjoy what I’ve heard by them, and I’m always confused that they don’t get the same props that other contemporary thrash bands, such as Anthrax, seem to get.

NOTE: As always, get ready for terrible pictures I took with my camera, I actually just got a new one, so lets hope future posts like this will be better!


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Opener: Whoracle

Here is the band’s Facebook page

Named after an In Flames song of the same name, Whoracle is a thrashy Melodic death metal band from Topeka, Kansas. The line-up is Matt Gibbs-Lead Vocals and Guitars, Alex Measmer-Drums, Toby Sanders-Bass, and Tyler Shuford-Guitars. The thing that really stood to me in regards to this band was the lead singer doing double duty as lead guitarist and singer, you really don’t see this a lot because both things are super challenging alone, much less at the same time. There are weirdos like Geddy Lee that tries to somehow sing, play the guitar, and keyboards at the same time, but that’s just showing off. Despite a few distortion pedal related incidents (neither of which were that bad), the band played a very solid set, and impressed the crowd.

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The highlight for pretty much every song was Gibbs ripping out some crazy shred guitar riffs. While the band lacks stage presence that most bands end up getting after years of years of touring, they make for it with their playing. I have seen a LOT of opening acts at various concerts that were either so bad that I have blocked them out, or so bland that I don’t even remember seeing them at a show, Whoracle was not like this. This is one of those bands that I plan to keep an eye on just in case they come rolling in again as an opener for another band.

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Supporting act – Nile

I will confess here that prior to this concert I wasn’t really the biggest fan of South Carolina based, Technical Death metal band, Nile. I recall buying one of their first albums back when I was in high school, and while loving the music, I was not a fan of the vocals. This may seem hypocritical of me, considering my love for black metal’s shrieking vocals, but I am not a huge fan of the style of vocals that most death metal bands employ. Another worrying fact going into this show was that the longtime lead singer of Nile, Dallas Toler-Wade, quit the band literally one week prior to the show!  Replacing Toler-Wade was Brian Kingsland who was the vocalist and guitarist in a band called Enthean. How did he stack up?

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Well, the vocals were pretty good – and it was interesting that it wasn’t just Kingsland singing. Karl Sanders and Brad Parris also did parts of various songs, so the new guy didn’t stand out a ton on his own. One song in particular, Sarcophogus, got an extended live version that had a crazy guitar solo and other enhancements that I wish was in the recorded song on the actual album. This was easily the highlight of the set, and I was glad they saved it for near the end. While I won’t say that I’m a Nile fan now, I will check out their next album, and at the very least I know that they are a GREAT live band – no matter how the albums sound to me.

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Headliner: Overkill

Highlight of the night for me was getting to see Overkill, especially since Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth, lead singer, has not lost a step whatsoever in the past thirty some years. His age even became a joke at one point when two rowdy fans started a fight in the pit, and he exclaimed “come up here and let me kick your ass! who wants to get their ass kicked by grandpa!” best banter of the year so far. I have yet to listen to Overkill’s new album in full, but if his concert was any indication, it’s a solid release. Songs like “Mean, Green, Killing Machine” and “Goddamn Trouble” had the crowd really going. People were moshing just as hard, and if not harder, than a lot of heavier shows I’ve attended that made it a point to get folks to mosh.

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This concert didn’t have any gimmicks or theatrics to get everyone excited, it was pure simple, face obliterating thrash goodness. Everyone in the band was awesome, but Derek “The Skull” Tailer and D.D. Blaze really impressed me considering, in Blaze’s case, that a lot of metal drowns the bass guitar out so much you honestly can’t tell it’s there sometimes. Instead everyone had time to really shine and you could tell the band was having a blast.

Honestly, the only quibble I had with the entire show was the merch stand. For some unknown reason, like 85% of their stuff was out of stock, leaving shirts in sizing ranging from small to small in many cases. Since about the only use a small shirt would have on my body would be a headband, I was annoyed that I couldn’t get a tour shirt. Hopefully they end up putting this on their website,  or nuclear blasts website soon, so I can attempt to get one again. Instead I went for my standard patches that I have been collecting, so aat least there was that.

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All in all, solid show – if you are in any town that these guys will be appearing in, Overkill is well worth ticket price alone. And while I’m not a huge Nile fan, they really impressed me live, and I’ll have to give them another chance at some point. Stay tuned for more terrible cellphone pictures and other fun oddities, as I plan to do another concert review very soon.


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Vampire Hunter D: Raiser of Gales (1984)

Vampire Hunter D Volume 02: Raiser of Gales (Vampire Hunter D #2)

Recently, I was discussing a Kickstarter campaign to bring a new Vampire Hunter D comic to the masses with a co-worker, and mentioned that I had started to read the VHD novel series. They had no idea these books were out there and there was so much material, so we went to good old Mr. Wikipedia to look. 30+ total books WOW! and here I am at number 2…lol!! I have actually read the comic from the Kickstarter, so I will likely discuss it on here soon.

When we last left D, he had defeated Count Magnus Lee, and ventured into the wastelaands to look for more work. This chapter follows D on yet another adventure, this time in the snow-covered town of Tepes. The people of the village once cowered in fear beneath the shadow of a dreary castle once inhabited by a member of The Nobility (vampires). The Nobility moved on, or otherwise vanished from Tepes, and the castle sat empty with only its elaborate traps intact. One day four of the village children vanished, presumed to have ventured into the castle. Only three returned, with no memory of what happened or where they went, and one had gone completely mad. That was ten years ago. Now, in the year 12,090 A.D., vampires who can walk in the daylight have seemingly appeared, and many murders are taking place.

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This book is in some ways better and in some ways worse than the first one. I loved the fact that the majority of the book played out like a murder mystery with D acting as a goth Angela Lansbury, shaking down skeevy locals and fighting monsters at the the same time. Okay I guess that’s nothing like Angela Lansbury in Murder She Wrote, but you get the point. The book unfortunately falls into the tread of repeating a bit of the tropes in the last book – D goes to a town, Vampires are attacking town, D meets 17 year old brunette girl that falls in love with him, all the men in town get real rapey, D is a badass – the end. aside from this, there is a TON of character building for D and some more world building for the world of 12,090 AD.

If you like this series, and Gothic horror in general, check this out. Hideyuki Kikuchi does play around with the narrator of the story a bit, treating the voice as some omniscient deity that knows everything and can leap into the points of views of all of the characters at any time. It’s vaguely similar to how old school pulp writers used to write stories, and I know it can put people off of his writing style. If this isn’t an issue keep reading, and onward to book three!


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Vampire Hunter D (1983)

Vampire Hunter D

When I was a kid, perhaps too young to watch these sorts of films, I fell in love with the movie Vampire Hunter D when it used to air on The Science Fiction Channel (now called Syfy for some reason). This, along with Nosferatu and hammer horror, has made it basically impossible to take many “modern” vampire books or films seriously – especially ones featuring adolescent sparkly vampires. For the longest time, I knew that the film was based on a book series, but had no idea that there were dozens of volumes out there and that most of them were translated into English. The wait was well worth it, and this book was awesome.

For those that have seen the animated feature, the story of this book may seem familiar as it is the basis for that film. There are a few differences, but the plot is largely similar – the studio that did the anime adaptation did a pretty solid job for the most part. For those that may not have seen it, here is a quick run-down. The year is 12,090 AD. Ten thousand years prior to this book, there was a war between humans and supernatural monsters of all sorts, and the monsters won. Humans are now a subjugated race and are seen as livestock  by vampires. These noblemen and women keep mechanical security systems as well as armies of werewolves and mutants to protect them from any human stupid enough to try to face them.

While out hunting one night, a young girl named Doris trespasses into the vampire domain of Count Magnus Lee. As payment for her crime, Lee “kisses” her and discovers that her blood is the sweetest he’s tasted in ages. Lee decides to marry Doris much to her own displeasure. Lee’s daughter Ramica cannot tolerate the idea that her father, a descendant of the Ancient One (likely Count Dracula), intends to pollute the House of Lee with human blood, and she vows to stop the marriage.

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Doris runs into a young man calling himself “D” that claims to be a vampire hunter, Doris makes a living as a werewolf hunter herself, and sees D as a stupid young kid that likely has a death wish. That is, until she sees him in action. D is insanely fast, strong, and agile – all things that would definitely help if vampires were to start walking around – Doris decides to try to enlist his aid. What follows is a story of D, who is himself at least half-vampire, fighting all manner of evil monster to slay Count Lee.

Hideyuki Kikuchi is a master of setting moods and describing events in this book. Considering the style in which he writes, I would not be too amazed if he was a fan of the works of H.P. Lovecraft, as he is somewhat similar to he and other old-school pulp writers. Granted, this was an English translation, so maybe the translator is instead – who knows!  Honestly his only flaw is that he tends to make some characters a tad one dimensional – people like Greco Rohman, the seedy man-child and son of the mayor that has his eyes on Doris, is a cartoonishly evil buffoon that comes across quite trope-y. Sadly D himself also comes across as of he has little personality in this novel existing to be surly and stoic 24/7. Thankfully “lefty”, D’s sentient left hand, is there as comic relief and adds a bit to D’s character. Doris, however, is actually fleshed out really well – a fact that is somewhat surprising considering how she seems like a perpetual victim in the anime. She gets time to look badass, and take names, herself.

I love the pulp style that Hideyuki Kikuchi writes in, I see that some reviewers find it silly, but I read a lot of older science fiction, so this is right up my alley. If you love Vampire Hunter D, gothic horror, post-apocalyptic fiction, or weird sci-fi, I’d check this out. Can’t wait to read more!


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Megaten Games Should Be More Controversial Than They Are

NOTE: A version of this article was originally posted on a now-defunct gaming website that I previously worked for. Some of the references might be a bit dated. Rather than have something I worked hard on disappear from the internet, I have decided to post it on here. 

Remember the HUGE controversy that Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas spawned a few years ago? Despite the “Hot Coffee Mod” being only unlockable by way of a cheating device, many an anti-videogame lobbyist threw up an amazing fuss over the game citing it as the downfall of our civilization amongst other things. Let’s face it, was all the fuss really worth it? Only a few folks could even access the section, so was it really that bad? What about all of the controversy that has recently started up for the new iteration of the Medal of Honor franchise? Being able to play as the Taliban has opened a can of worms that many folks are drawing battle fines for. It’s okay to fight against Nazis and Viet Kong though, as they are old news.
Both examples make me chuckle, as there are tons of games out there with far more objectionable content that would make these people freak out like crazy if they only knew about them. Hell, if you look at a game like Pokémon just right, one could argue that it is simply an animal fighting simulator, and in this post-Michael Vick world, that’s the last thing kid’s need (sarcasm). Another example is the growing H-games category, including awful games that depict things such as rape of digital characters. These are even sold in the U.S. generally by digital distribution, and nobody bats an eyelash.
The main subject of this article is another game series; one that would outrage many folks if it weren’t for that fact that these people that get on anti gaming bandwagons do no research and only get mad about what is popular. Part of me sort of hopes at least one stuffy suit in an offiece finds out about the series so it gets more popular. Called “Megaten” for short by many of its fans, the Shin Megami Tensei games have been alive and kicking since the Famicom (NES) days way back in the late eighties. Many do not know this, as the series was completely unheard of in the west until Persona, a spin-off game for the PlayStation rolled stateside with heavy edits in place. But why was this the case? Why was this game series seen as “un-releasbale” for so long? and why is the game more controversial than most other games out there? I have listed a few, but not all, reasons that I feel truly illustrate this point.


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Way to go guys….

Anti-Government / Anti-Authority Overtones

One of the first factors that I would like to bring up, as to why this series used to be quite sensitive and still would anger pundits and folks like Tipper Gore, is it’s general consistency in the “authority is bad” department. Games and movies alike have been lumped together in the assumption that all they do is create juvenile delinquents. The cornerstone of this belief, especially games like GTA, is that they promote a lack of family values, starting with a lack of respect for elders. This scenario pops up in just about all Megaten games.

Let’s face it, if a demon invasion were to happen in your town, the local government would probably come across as jerks trying to handle it. Martial law, food rations, curfews and other inconveniences would surely occur. Problem is that in most games where this happens there is an ulterior motive for this, one that does not involve the well being of the people.

This exact scenario happens in the Nintendo DS game Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor. An outbreak of demons causes the Japanese Self Defense Force to seal in Tokyo keeping anything from entering or leaving the city. The main characters find out by way of a computer program acting as a “Death Clock” that everyone there is to die in exactly one week. The assumption is that the SDF is going to nuke Tokyo wiping the infestation off the map. The main characters fear the worst, as SDF soldiers are realized as anonymous inhuman soldiers within the game. This sentiment is made worse by the fact that many times within the game, soldiers and government officials stand by while all manner of atrocity occurs, letting religious cults seem the ones to trust in the situation.

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“We don’t have to listen to you adults!”

 

Many games in the main series revolve around a post-apocalyptic backdrop for all the demon wrangling. This is usually caused by a total mismanagement of a small situation by a few world powers, and BOOM, end of the world. If the government wasn’t the cause of the calamity, they usually stand benign and allow all kinds of bad stuff to happen.

Another spinoff of the series, Persona, shows how corrupt and untrustworthy the governments can be in these games. For Example, one of the main antagonists of the game is a huge multi-national company called SEBEC. These guys specialize in looking like any other electrical company from the outside, but actually exist as some kind of militarized pseudo government that rises up to control the world once all hell breaks loose. Pretty soon you are fighting SEBEC agents and soldiers along with the popular demon characters.


 

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Don’t you hate when you forget to wear pants?

 

Gore and Sexual Imagery, Especially in Spinoff Material

Most anime and Manga fans are pretty lucky to have adaptations of or spinoff material from their favorite videogames, as these items can be a huge marketing push for the company producing the game. This success has been seen with Final Fantasy VII and its spinoff materials including the widely popular Advent Children movie. The Megaten series is no stranger to this as there have been a number of anime and manga publications out there for years. Problem is that most of these go overboard with the “adult” tone. While a lot of the Megaten games are full of dark imagery, they never really cross the line into the pornographic side of gore, nudity, cursing, and other hallmarks of mature media. This hasn’t stopped the writers of these movies and books from making their stuff basically all pornographic.
One example of this that immediately comes to my mind is the near ancient OVA (Original Video Animation or Direct to Video) movie Digital Devil Saga: Megami Tensei. The movie came out right as the game series began to be somewhat popular, but is actually based on the original novel that the game originated from. What follows is 45 minutes of gratuitous nudity, tentacle …..uh….situations, and gore. By the end of the movie you end up pretty desensitized to what is happening and you very well could fall asleep, that’s what I did at least. There are a lot of goofy situations like the main character creating a virtual reality version of his teacher in order for a demon named Loki to have sex with in the virtual realm. As you can see, pretty off-base stuff.

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This game where I actually kill people is awesome!

A lot of the manga is equally off-base including the sole Western released manga (as far as I know) Kahn, which takes place storyline-wise after an obscure spin-off game made many years ago. Much like the later Persona games, the action takes place entirely in a school that gets infested with demons. On any given page the reader is blessed with beheaded students, blood sprays and even a lesbian girl-on-demon girl sex scene. I totally remember that in the games! (oh wait…) All joking aside it seems that anyone who wants to shell out some extra cash on some Megaten side stories will have to watch out, as your basically buying porn. Bloody weird porn with demon sex in it.

The games themselves are still fairly violent and risqué, but are a lot more subtle about it. One of the more “out in the open” things found in some of the games are the designs for some of the demons themselves. Had this series been released in any other decade there would be many a digital bikini getting drawn onto pixilated characters as there are some pretty scandalous things in the game, such as:

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and…no comment on the next one:

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Good to see he can still fight like that!

Skewed Religious Overtones

Much like how western folks get random kanji tattooed on themselves that are supposed to mean “strength” but actually says “Kitchen”, the Japanese have always been fascinated with western religious imagery and mythology, especially for works of fiction, and slightly mis-used them. If you are an anime fan and have seen a show called Neon Genesis Evangelion, you know exactly what I’m talking about in this regard.
This topic is actually one of the more controversial aspects of this series, and help lead to the games being dubbed “un-releasable” back in the good old days due to heavy censorship. On the surface the Megaten games take the age old RPG cliché of “the bad guy is an evil religion / deity / priest etc.” motif and attaches actual religions to it. Instead of a fictitious god with a generic name like “the nature spirit” we have YHVH. “YHVH?” “What does that mean?” YHVH, which is also called the tetragrammaton, is the actual perceived “name” for what many of us call God. This acronym can also have syllables added to it to read as Yahweh or Jehovah depending on what religion you come from.

In the game Shin Megami Tensei II YHVH is the main bad guy, a point that would utterly anger most religious types. His motivations in the game are that the world has become so unreasonably bad that he has decided to destroy it and begin anew. This leads to a difficult choice for the gamer: does one listen to their God who wants to destroy the earth, fight against him and join with Satan, or decide that their all idiots and do your own thing. Not only does this fly in the face in just about every Christian concept there is, but it promotes anti-authoritarian values to the highest degree. Did I mention that the main character in Shin Megami Tensei II is the Messiah? Yeah talk about daddy issues!

The “real ending” of this game is one where you chose to kill God himself, to which he gives a speech along the lines of “As long as humanity is too weak to look for their own answers, their weakness will create a belief in me that brings me back to life again and again and again! MWAHAHAAHAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!”. You walk outside and Satan himself is there acting all cool like the Fonze saying “hey man, good job!”

Don’t take my word for it: Here is a bit of one of the endings of Shin Megami Tensei II for reference –

 

The religious imagery does not end there, as you fight enemies such as a crucified man who looks to be of the Jesus persuasion, bondage clad sado-masochistic angels, demons named after archangels and saints and so on. It would be a safe bet that if the wrong person witnessed various parts of these games, there would be a crap-storm. The Jesus thing is a big problem as labeling a fictitious character as the “messiah” or a reincarnation of Jesus pretty much makes everyone angry. This is especially true when you have a character in a game that looks exactly like the Western depiction of Jesus that is evil and is a false messiah like Takaya in Persona 3.

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Didn’t know Jesus was packing

The problem with this is that anytime one makes a reference to an actual deity in a game, TV show, or movie that doesn’t paint it exactly in the best regard, the followers of said church are probably going to get mad. Two examples of this that I can think of off the top of my head are the Danish Cartoon debacle and the protests over the popular Kevin Smith movie Dogma. Both situations ended up garnering death threats and angry mobs, and in the case of the cartoons, promised violence. Imagine if you will, those folks finding out about these games!


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Kids handling guns

After the Columbine tragedy, depictions of school children doing any harm to each other (or themselves for that matter) are generally frowned upon in the U.S. and much of the western world. Why else would a ten year old movie such as Battle Royale never get released legitimately here despite honors, awards, and wide appeal? It’s because most folks are scared that they will get blamed when the next series of schoolyard violence opens up. Color me surprised when the trailer for Persona 3 opened up and showed what looked to be a group of kids shooting themselves in the head with small caliber pistols. “surely they’ll edit that out” I said, remembering the unnecessary edits done to previous Persona games. These were edits that went so far as to change people’s Races or remove entire chunks of storyline. It’s a different era I guess, because said guns are definitely in the game.

 


 

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Hitler’s short-lived “cool” phase

Other Issues

The following is a small list of “hot button issues” that any Megaten game tries to push the envelope on, but weren’t big enough for their own section.

Occultism – The series is full of depictions of Satanic, pagan, and other rituals including sacrifices, blood orgies, and other items that would make many frown upon the game.
Anti-Semitism – The main storyline of the first half of Persona 2 revolves around a clan of Neo-Nazis trying to resurrect Hitler to take over the world. They succeed and you have to fight Hitler. This would get the game outright banned in some countries such as Germany.

Cannibalism- In the game Digital Devil Saga the main characters are all demons, and gain powers from other demons by way of eating them. When Serph and company devour other demons, they gain magic points, but only if this attack actually kills the demon in question.

Homosexuality – Rather than dancing around the issue of homosexuality in games, (much like the character Birdo in the Mario series) The Megaten games have always presented it in an honest adult manner. Usually there is a random character in the game that turns out to be a cross-dresser or openly gay. Take for instance Kanji Tatsumi in persona 4, and his problems with his own sexuality and it’s perceived “un-manliness” (yeah that’s a word now).


 

So there you have it, the most controversial game series out there should be the Megaten series, yet a very small amount of folks have actually played it. I bet by reading this at least one reader has become shocked and outraged about the series, which is my intention. If we are to believe that “controversy sells”, what better way to promote a game that I enjoy than to use it to anger “stuffy” folks. All kidding aside, most themes in these games make GTA look tame by comparison due to the tone it uses. Other games revel in the immaturity of the gore, sex, and drugs they use, yet the Megaten series does it in an intelligent adult manner.


 

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A look at the Nine Inch Nails- Not The Actual Event “Physical Component”

It wasn’t that long ago that the legendary industrial rock “band” Nine Inch Nails announced a surprise release for a new EP called Not The Actual Event. People that decided to purchase the music noticed that you were jot buying a CD, Tape, Vinyl, flash drive, or anything else normal, but a confusingly named “Physical Component”. Here it is, a few months later and I received my package. Upon opening the shipping pack, a heavy black envelope fell out. It became very obvious that I was in for some kind of treat when this is the first thing I saw:

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I sat there for a while wondering what it could be and how I should handle it. Assuming I was about to get glitter-bombed or something, I opened the package to find a stack of heavy printed cards, and a transparency sheet all smeared with black toner powder. I can only assume that this is the beginning of some sort of ARG, or alternate reality game, and am excited to see where this goes. Trent Reznor is no stranger to ARG projects as he did one about a decade ago for another album, Year Zero. Even if I can’t figure out any hidden messages, these prints are still very cool to have!

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In case you are a fan of NIN and have yet to hear the new album, here is a sample.


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H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds (2005)

I was thinking recently about what films I would love to see the new season of MST3K riff, and one film immediately came to mind – one that not many people have likely heard of or seen. You see, I’m a connoisseur of bad movies, and I always love collecting them in order to obliterate everyone in bad movie marathons. Gems like Manos: Hands of Fate and Robo-Vampire are my usual ammunition in such contests, but I honestly think H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds is worse. You might be sitting there while thinking “that 2005 The War of the Worlds film with Tom Cruise was alright though….” but that’s a different film that is somewhat better than the topic of today’s discussion.

Our story goes back to sometime in 2001, and some message-board I was reading at the time was keeping tabs on an upcoming War of the Worlds film. It was supposed to be a modernized re-telling of the original story and more of a horror movie than any version prior. Everything was rolling strong until the events that occurred on September 11, 2001. Pendragon films, the studio behind the picture posted the following to their ebsite in the aftermath.

 Since events of 11 September…


Pendragon Pictures’ principals are concerned over a rumour that production of WAR OF THE WORLDS is about to resume on October 8th. Director Timothy Hines expresses dismay at the rumour, “It is absolutely not true that War of the Worlds is about to resume. The reality is that we are massively reworking the script in the wake of the World Trade Center disaster and we will not be able to go before the cameras for a little over a year.”

The Pendragon principals lost a close friend and investor in WAR OF THE WORLDS in the World Trade Center attack. 

Timothy Hines goes on, “It has been a very difficult time for everyone. The whole world was touched by the WTC experience. For us personally those planes slammed directly into our lives. We lost a very close friend and have been in mourning. We also watched portions of our fictional screenplay being played out on September 11th. I knew immediately we couldn’t do War of the Worlds as conceived. It was a strange time. I found myself weeping on the phone with Michele Jeffers at Foundation Imaging. They were great in that they wrote off some of the effects work we had built for War of the Worlds. The fans of War of the Worlds will be very pleased with the direction we are taking, but I won’t just slap it out there. War of the Worlds deserves care and time and there is no other way I could do it.”

Pendragon Producer Susan Goforth adds, “The script has to be rewritten from the ground up. This new version will be a true and accurate adaptation of the Wells classic story placed in its original 1898 setting. It’s been emotionally difficult for us to see sets and thousands of preparations scrapped. But Timothy has made the right choice.”

It’s really a shame, because this was a piece of concept art:

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Timothy Hines was also posting stuff like this prior to the old film being scrapped:

“The fans of War of the Worlds will be very pleased with the direction we are taking, but I won’t just slap it out there. War of the Worlds deserves care and time and there is no other way I could do it.”

– 7th October 2001

“Everyone has come away from the script telling us that when we film this story, it will be the most frightening movie ever made.”

– 6th June 2001

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Now this wasn’t a bad thing necessarily, having a period drama version of the original story would be amazing if done well. As long as the script is there, something like this could be a huge hit. It took until 2005 for the film to finally surface in trailers and press clippings and it did not look good. due to the delay, Steven Spielberg had swooped in with his own film, and one by Asylum pictures was also in the works. it seems that Pendragon had to get the movie out there, and boy they did! Everyone knows that you can’t adapt a book 100% to a movie, because if you do it will be a horrendous borefest. If you want a case-study in that fact, look no further than this movie.

Before we get to that, I wanted to touch base on one of the most baffling things associated with the production of this film – the Amazon scandal it was part of. It seems Hines, or someone else working for Pendragon Studios (then later trolls) decided to flood Amazon.com with over 3500 fake 5 star reviews, one of which actually implied that film made a lady stop being lesbian and another that said the film was a religious experience.You see, this film was ONLY available on Amazon and Wal-Mart for some reason (probably because it’s bad) and they wanted to ensure bad reviews got buried. next thing you know, the film is top of Amazon’s film ratings and is selling like hot cakes to people that think it’s the Tom Cruise film most likely.

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Totally a real mustache guys!

This was the era of look-alike films at video stores to trick old people, a business plan championed by companies like Asylum Entertainment – the guys behind such “mockbusters” as Snakes on a Train, The Land That Time Forgot, Transmorphers, AVH: Alien vs. Hunter, The Da Vinci Treasure, Battle of Los Angeles, and Paranormal Entity. H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds fit right into the mold.

The film is basically comically bad in every way possible. Usually first time directors decide to do a small movie to get their ears wet, and if it that’s popular, go ahead and get more funding for something bigger. Hines decided to tackle an epic war film right of the bat. I could possibly handle the horrendous special effects had the acting been anything better than community theater acting. And by horrendous special effects I mean late-night Christian children’s programming graphics.

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Then we have the plotting of the film, which moves at such a glacial pace, that the film seems 12 hours long. It’s honestly VERY true to the book, but it’s true to a fault because it makes everything nearly unwatchable. The plotting can be summed up as follows:

  • Main character hears about aliens
  • main character walks somewhere for 5 minutes
  • main character talks to somebody
  • walks back for another 5 minutes
  • sees some alien thing that is completely useless to the film because….
  • MORE WALKING!
  • CGI Tripod blows up GCI houses
  • repeat for 3 hours….

 

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Another major flaw is realism. The story takes place in Victorian/Edwardian England, about the time of the Boer Wars, but everyone is either dressed as if it is an American western or in a World War II era war movie. this can be overlooked as me being a snobby history major looking for things to whine about, but the costuming is so inconsistent it almost looks like this was directed by multiple people. also, NOONE is British or able to pull off a convincing accent. Most people have some ridiculous sing-songy fake cockney accent this side of Mary Poppins or a faux Royal Accent that makes everyone sound like a bad community Shakespeare play. There is even a guy who must have a Scottish and Irish split personality, because he switches between both at will.

And don’t get me started on the main actors fake mustache that falls off either.

Here is one of the better scenes in the film if you want to see some of the glory within:

 

 

One of these days, I might have to give Pendragon Pictures another chance as they apparently took another stab at the premise with a docudrama called War of the Wolds: The True Story (2012). I’m under no impressions that the film looks amazing, but it at least looks interesting, and the special effects look marginally better. It seems to use the same footage as this film mixed with new stuff, so maybe the editing will mask any other problems the film had.

It allegedly won some awards, so it might be passable. Either that or Timothy Hines is the modern day Ed Wood.


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