News Dump

Various bits of news and future planning today:

  1. My Little Po-Mo, Book 2: Book 2 is running a bit late but proceeding apace. I will almost definitely miss the July deadline, but hopefully by no more than a couple of weeks. I will also be writing the commissioned essays during the next couple of months, so expect to see those soon.
  2. My Little Po-Mo, Book 3: The next book will compile the Fanworks Month and Derivative Works Month articles, plus Season 3. I expect to run a Kickstarter for it in September, October at the latest. (Kickstarter fail rates skyrocket in November-December, so if I don’t get it by then it’s not happening this year.)
  3. My Little Po-Mo, endgame: This past weekend’s Equestria Girls post was the final Derivative Works Month article. Ever. Next week begins Season Four, which as I’ve said several times is the end of the project; I will do Season 5 liveblogs, but I am not planning on doing full articles for it. Season 4 coverage will begin, as I said, with the ending, then jump back to the beginning. I do not expect any lengthy breaks, just the occasional guest post here and there while I’m at a convention, so My Little Po-Mo should end in about 30 weeks, give or take.
  4. Site redesign/move: So, I got an e-mail this morning that the domain name I registered last year expires in two months. Eh-heh-heh… oops. I really do want to get moving on this, but I am very much at sea with these things, so it’s taking a long while. It WILL be happening at some point, though.
  5. The Very Soil book: No Kickstarter for The Very Soil, as I said. I am hoping to have it off to the editor by the end of the month. It will of course contain all of the The Very Soil articles, with expansions and revisions, and right now I’m looking at adding three more, one each on Kazumi Magica and Oriko Magica, and one additional “Against _____.”
  6. Let’s Plays: Recording begins tonight, if all goes according to plan. Our first two games will be Final Fantasy III (the U.S.-released Super Nintendo game, FF6 in Japan) and The Ur-Quan Masters HD. Not sure yet if we’re going to go straight through one and then the other, or alternate. Our next game after that will probably be Terranigma, but that’s pretty far off. Not sure yet about formats and release schedules; we’ll play it by ear.

Gak (Equestria Girls)

If you average their expressions, you’ll basically
get what I looked like while watching this movie.

It’s June 16, 2013.The top song is the controversial “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke featuring T.I. and Pharrell, and the top movie is the dour Superman-as-kaiju flick Man of Steel. In the news, Edward Snowden is revealed as the source of the NSA leaks in the U.S. and defects to Hong Kong (he will ultimately end up living in Russia); Russia bans positive depictions of homosexuality; and it comes out that the Syrian government is using chemical weapons against its own citizens in the ongoing civil war there.

Meanwhile, the Friendship Is Magic movie Equestria Girls, written by Meghan McCarthy opens to a limited run of 200 screens. So let’s start with the obvious: This movie isn’t very good. The animation is not as much better than the show as one would expect for a theatrical release, the story is redolent with high-school drama cliches, and the songs are (deliberately, according to composer Daniel Ingram) modeled on contemporary girl-group pop, which is to say simplistic, autotuned to oblivion, and lacking in variety.

So let’s take that as a given, set it aside, and try to find something more interesting to say, because somewhere underneath the “new girl transgresses established high school factions, becomes darling of all” is the potential for a good movie about more interesting topics.

Consider the intense contrast between settings. Ponyville is practically defined by a lack of cliques or classes. Government officials of wildly differing rank, farmers, artists, artisans, and the apparently unemployed are fast and easy friends in this world, while different races of pony live together and interact harmoniously. Certainly there are circles of friends–the Mane Six themselves form one–but they are not as insular or exclusive enough to be cliques. Most of the Mane Six have friendships outside and distinct from the rest of the group, most obviously Pinkie Pie, but in addition Rarity has her friends in high society, Twilight has Cadence and arguably the other princesses as well, and Rainbow Dash’s interactions with the other pegasi in Ponyville are at least readable as implying friendship. The closest things to cliques in the show are, unsurprisingly, among the schoolchildren: the Cutie Mark Crusaders are very nearly one, with the exception that, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, we can assume Apple Bloom and Twist are still friends. Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon, on the other hand, are definitely a clique.

By contrast, one of the first things Twilight Sparkle learns about Canterlot High is that it is defined by cliques, which operate as independent factions. Fluttershy outright states this (“Maybe it was different at your old school, but at C.H.S., everybody sticks to their own kind,”) and lists off several such cliques, including “the athletes, the fashionistas, the dramas, the eco-kids, the techies, the rockers…” and notes that Sunset Shimmer dominates over all of them. This is the familiar world of high-school cafeteria politics, but something interesting is very subtly implied later in the movie, when we learn this world’s versions of Fluttershy, Applejack, Rarity, Rainbow Dash, and Pinkie Pie were friends early in high school, before Sunset Shimmer split them up.

Look at that list of cliques again. Athletes? That’s Rainbow Dash. Rarity is definitely a fashionista, and Fluttershy would doubtless fit right in among the eco-kids. Fluttershy’s list doesn’t have a clique for every member of the Mane Five, but it’s not likely to be a complete list of cliques, either; what it does do is establish a pattern. Applejack and Pinkie Pie don’t really fit into any of the cliques she mentioned; it’s possible that they could be in some kind of baking-centric clique together, but the interactions of the Mane Five throughout the film suggest that they haven’t seen each other much in the years since Sunset Shimmer targeted them. More likely is that each of the five are in separate cliques (indeed, Pinkie Pie’s party-planning committee may be one)–which means that they initially had a strong, cross-clique friendship.

The existence of that friendship, in turn, implies that the school’s cliques were much less isolated prior to Sunset Shimmer’s arrival; more like the friendship circles typical of Ponyville, in other words, than the rigid and frequently hostile cliques of high school cliche. It is an outside force, a manipulator seeking control, who drove the Mane Six apart; it seems likely that she has done the same to the school, dividing and conquering.

The cliques, in other words, are artificial. They are constructs created specifically to divide the students, to prevent them from accomplishing what they could if they were united. This exploitation of the instinct for tribalism to divide people against their own interests resonates with many phenomena throughout our culture, particularly in the political arena, but let us follow the movie in keeping the focus on high school: where do cliques come from? They cannot be an instinctive and inevitable part of adolescence, though they are often depicted or implied as such–there’s little trace of such behavior being a particular and peculiar feature of youth in media before the 1950s or so, for instance. This is a recent cliche, which is to say a recent cultural phenomenon.

And as a cultural phenomenon, it is necessarily constructed by its participants. Cliques come from the students within those cliques, from the ways in which they choose to act on their attitudes and biases. For all that the “Help Twilight Win the Crown” sequence seems impossibly utopian even by Friendship Is Magic standards, the film has been quietly building an argument for it throughout: cliques are not inevitable. Students create and enforce them, and can choose to relax them if they wish.

Notably, it is Twilight who persuades–leads–them to do so. The film makes rather a point of contrasting Twilight’s initial discomfort with her wings to the necessity of adapting to bipedal locomotion and hands, with Twilight noting near the end of the film that adjusting to her wings should be much easier now. But those wings are simply a visual marker of her ascension to political authority, and her discomfort with them an echo of her uncertainty about her new role, a major theme of the coming Season Four. Likewise, her assumption of human form is a visual marker of the alien environment into which she is thrust in this film, high school. If she could climb to a leadership role there, and do a good job of uniting the students behind her in pursuit of a positive end, surely she can do it in the more familiar and convivial environment of Equestria.

Next Week: Season Four begins. And as I sometimes like to do, we’ll start with the ending–which is in itself a reflection of the past…

Kill la Kill Liveblog Chat Thingy

How to participate in the liveblog chat:

Option 1: Whenever you watch the episode, comment on this post as you watch with whatever responses you feel like posting!

Option 2: Go to Enter a nickname, then for the Channels field enter ##rabbitcube, and finally fill in the Captcha and hit Connect! We’ll be watching the episode and commenting there starting at 2:00 p.m. EST.

Chatlog below the cut!


[14:00] <@Sylocat> Oops, scratch that… click
[14:00] <@Sylocat> Mad Max?
[14:00] <Froborr> I was about to ask, why is there a Fist of the North Star character here?
[14:00] <Arrlaari> I did not remember that guy has a name
[14:00] <FoME> Don’t worry. We’re beyond the Thunderdrome.
[14:01] <@Sylocat> I both like and dislike this guy already
[14:01] <@Sylocat> WHOA
[14:01] <@Sylocat> What is THAT?
[14:01] <@Sylocat> Oh yikes… you do NOT mess with these guys’ flower arrangements
[14:01] <@Sylocat> Piranha plants!
[14:01] <@Sylocat> Or the Pottsylvania Creeper
[14:02] <FoME> Yes, those are sewing machine guns.
[14:02] <@Sylocat> Wow! This boss got nerfed
[14:02] <Froborr> Interesting, so there’s someone else collecting XP thread.
[14:03] <@Sylocat> I didn’t know it was multiplayer
[14:04] <Froborr> As an aside, I’ve always wanted a superhero whose power is JRPG-style XP acquisition and leveling.
[14:04] <@Sylocat> So, Scott Pilgrim would join The Avengers?
[14:04] <FoME> Ad pause, please.
[14:04] <Froborr> NP
[14:05] <FoME> And that’s a rather frightening proposition.
[14:05] <@Sylocat> Yes, yes it is
[14:05] <Froborr> Indeed.
[14:05] <FoME> And we’re good.
[14:05] <@Sylocat> (though he becomes considerably less horrible by the end, which is the whole point)
[14:05] <@Sylocat> Whoa! We jump right into a hostage situation!
[14:05] <Froborr> Well, end of the comic. The movie botches his character development horribly.
[14:06] <@Sylocat> Oh my goodness, the Biology Club boss is a half-and-half!
[14:06] <FoME> I wish my school had a Mad Science Club.
[14:07] <@Sylocat> Oh yikes, her own outfit is fashion-policing her
[14:07] <Froborr> I’m reminded of that one QI episode with the running gag about “avoid fatty and spicy foods.”
[14:07] <Froborr> Is Mako dead?
[14:07] <@Sylocat> AHAHAHAH
[14:07] <Froborr> That’s probably too much to hope for, isn’t it.
[14:07] <@Sylocat> WHOA!
[14:07] <Arrlaari> Combat acupuncture
[14:07] <@Sylocat> They wouldn’t kill her off this early, it’s not GoT
[14:07] <@Sylocat> Ah, combat acupuncture!
[14:08] <FoME> Brace yourselves. Mohawks are coming.
[14:08] <@Sylocat> Is there an actual Pervert Club?
[14:08] <FoME> I wouldn’t be surprised.
[14:08] <Froborr> At this point, I suspect it’ll turn out to be the game’s Developer’s Room.
[14:09] <FoME> Ad pause, please.
[14:09] <@Sylocat> Gotcha
[14:09] <@Sylocat> Well… this has been an interesting level so far
[14:09] <Froborr> Okay, wait, we’ve seen teh guy in the bar before. He’s one of the three guys I can’t tell apart.
[14:09] <@Sylocat> Is he the teacher guy?
[14:09] <FoME> He’s the homeroom teacher/compulsive stripper/exposition guy.
[14:09] <Froborr> Wait, those ARE the same guy?
[14:10] <Arrlaari> yes
[14:10] <FoME> Yup.
[14:10] <@Sylocat> Ah yes, the Tutorial guy
[14:10] <FoME> Go.
[14:10] <Froborr> But they’re different from the one guy in Satsuki’s inner circle that looks just like them, yes?
[14:10] <FoME> Yup.
[14:10] <@Sylocat> The path that we of WHAT?!
[14:10] <Froborr> Okay, so the rebellion against the fashion-powered tyrants are called “Nudist Beach”? That’s kind of awesome.
[14:11] <@Sylocat> This just keeps on going
[14:11] <FoME> Darn cutscenes.
[14:11] <@Sylocat> This anime says “people and clothing aren’t enemies” and makes it sound deep
[14:11] <@Sylocat> Also it’s an anime where the term “naked Nudist” isn’t redundant
[14:12] <Froborr> I dunno about people, but clothing is definitely one of MY enemies.
[14:12] <Froborr> So she got fashion-policed and now she’s not eating. Is this a Very Special Episode?
[14:12] <@Sylocat> Is he naked?
[14:12] <Froborr> And now they’re looking at Mad Max’s Pokedex entry.
[14:13] <Froborr> There!
[14:13] <Froborr> That guy in the foreground!
[14:13] <Froborr> Is he the same person as the Exposition Guy?
[14:13] <FoME> Nope.
[14:13] <@Sylocat> At some point, we’ve got to establish how to tell them apart
[14:14] <Arrlaari> The Elite Four exposition guy is not the Nudist Beach exposition guy
[14:14] <FoME> Ad break, please.
[14:14] <Arrlaari> Elite Four exposition is younger and always wears a jacket that covers the lower half of his face
[14:14] <Froborr> No, not him, the other guy.
[14:14] <Froborr> With the spikier blue hair.
[14:14] <@Sylocat> Ah, so THAT’s how you tell them apart
[14:14] <Arrlaari> The butler?
[14:14] <FoME> Sword Monkey?
[14:14] <Arrlaari> Sword Monkey doesn’t have blue hair
[14:14] <@Sylocat> Which of the Elite Four does?
[14:15] <Arrlaari> The info guy
[14:15] <FoME> Go.
[14:15] <@Sylocat> The train moves, not the station
[14:16] <@Sylocat> And he’s back
[14:16] <@Sylocat> I hope she’s been level grinding…
[14:16] <@Sylocat> Uh oh, she’s out of the groove
[14:16] <FoME> Judging by her nerves, she hasn’t.
[14:16] <Froborr> So why DID he let her transform?
[14:16] <@Sylocat> Vibranium?
[14:17] <FoME> Too far away to stop it?
[14:17] <@Sylocat> What the heck?
[14:17] <@Sylocat> AHAHAH
[14:17] <@Sylocat> Oh, they’re all temporarily joining her party because they’re mad at this guy
[14:18] <@Sylocat> Ahah, unrest amongst the Elite Four
[14:18] <FoME> And spool grenades.
[14:18] <@Sylocat> The heck…
[14:19] <Froborr> Okay, I’ll admit, this sequence with the band and all the quick shots of the battle is pretty funny.
[14:19] <@Sylocat> In-universe background music!
[14:20] <@Sylocat> “Betrayed by clothing.”
[14:20] <@Sylocat> This show is just too awesome
[14:20] <Froborr> Killed in the pursuit of experimental fashion.
[14:20] <@Sylocat> Nooooo! Senketsu!
[14:21] <@Sylocat> Mako?!
[14:21] <FoME> Yup.
[14:21] <@Sylocat> Wha… she’s got Pinkie Powers!
[14:21] <FoME> She’s one of two Pinkies in this show.
[14:22] <FoME> We haven’t seen the other yet.
[14:22] <@Sylocat> Her only friends were in her head. Gee, I wonder why…
[14:22] <@Sylocat> Why does Mako have a nosebleed? I missed it
[14:22] <@Sylocat> AHAHAH
[14:22] <Arrlaari> Also note that Mako has a small nose bleed
[14:22] <Arrlaari> yeah
[14:22] <FoME> She did fall face-first.
[14:23] <@Sylocat> He’s fazed by talking clothing? Does he think he’s in a different anime?
[14:23] <FoME> Normally only Ryuko can hear Senketsu.
[14:23] <FoME> Normally.
[14:23] <@Sylocat> I love how the bad guys are helping her out for purely selfish reasons
[14:24] <Froborr> Okay, I like the drum majorette Elite Four.
[14:24] <@Sylocat> “Anti-Uniform Guerilla”
[14:24] <@Sylocat> Is Jakuzure the Elite Four drummer girl?
[14:24] <FoME> Yup.
[14:24] <@Sylocat> Thought so
[14:25] <@Sylocat> D’awwwww
[14:25] <FoME> My Little Kamui: Life Fibers are Magic
[14:25] <Froborr> “Coming apart at the seams”
[14:25] <Froborr> Get it?
[14:25] <Froborr> Because CLOTHING
[14:25] <@Sylocat> Was that a deliberate pun?
[14:26] <@Sylocat> Or just a subtitle thing?
[14:26] <Arrlaari> Well, the subtitlers did it on purpose
[14:26] <@Sylocat> I love the closingsong
[14:26] <FoME> The little nubs along Ryuko’s iris always fascinate me.
[14:26] <Arrlaari> I think we still haven’t cleared up who Froborr was talking about, the guy with the “spikier blue hair”
[14:26] <FoME> It’s like her eyes are little gears.
[14:27] <Froborr> That guy!
[14:27] <Froborr> The one prominent in the next episode preview!
[14:27] <FoME> Yeah, that’s… well, I think you got his name.
[14:27] <Arrlaari> His hair isn’t blue though
[14:28] <Froborr> What color is it? It looks blue to me.
[14:28] <FoME> It’s more an ocean green.
[14:28] <Froborr> …but… oceans ARE blue… :/
[14:29] <FoME> Ostensibly.
[14:29] <FoME> But yeah, it’s definitely the bluer end of green.
[14:29] <Arrlaari> Okay, I’m back at that scene, and the lighting did turn his hair blue
[14:29] <Froborr> And I don’t think we’ve ever seen him outside that room, so.
[14:30] <@Sylocat> Well, I should get going… I’m rehearsing one play, and teching a performance of another
[14:30] <Arrlaari> He was outside in the first couple episodes
[14:30] <Froborr> Ah.
[14:30] <FoME> Bye, Sylo.
[14:30] <Arrlaari> He’s the athletic club chairman, so he was boxing club guy’s boss
[14:30] <Froborr> Bye, Sylo.
[14:30] <@Sylocat> Looking forward to the EqG post, even though I loved the movie and you didn’t
[14:30] <FoME> And Tennis Girl’s.
[14:30] <@Sylocat> See ya round… this was fun
[14:30] <Froborr> Yeah, my ability to remember past events in this show is limited. Everything is so frenetic that little stands out enough to register.
[14:30] <Froborr> And yep!
[14:30] == Sylocat [b83c1916@gateway/web/freenode/ip.] has quit [Quit: Page closed]
[14:31] <Froborr> See you all next week!
[14:31] <FoME> What did you think of this one?
[14:31] <Arrlaari> tbh, I remember the first two episodes I did a lot of stop-and-rewind
[14:32] <Froborr> I liked it better than 1, 2, or 4. Not as much as 3.
[14:33] <Froborr> I could follow what was going on, there was little of the annoying “ostensibly funny thing happens, followed immediately by character screaming that said ostensibly funny thing happened,” and I like the design and attitude of the drum majoriette.
[14:34] <Froborr> Anyone have any thoughts before I copypasta?

[14:34] <FoME> Not really. Glad you liked this one.

[14:35] <Froborr> Okay, copypastaing.
[14:35] <Arrlaari> I look forward to seeing you respond to Sanageyama’s focus episode
[14:35] <Froborr> What’s a Sanageyama?
[14:35] <Arrlaari> He’s the dude you were asking about earlier
[14:35] <Froborr> Ah.
[14:36] <FoME> I call him Sword Monkey.
[14:36] <Arrlaari> Uzu Sanageyama, athletic club chairman and kendo club guy

Priority override. New behavior dictated.

Did you know that there’s an HD version of The Ur-Quan Masters now? And that it’s really pretty and has sweet little tweaks like planets and moons actually moving in their orbits, or resource blobs no longer evaporating if you only have room for part of the blob?

In news that is entirely and completely not at all related let me assure you, no Fiction Friday today. I apologize to all one and a half of you who actually read it. 😉

Let’s Plays?

Sorry this is late. I forgot to actually queue it, so even though it was written in time, it didn’t show.

My friend Viga and I have been talking about possibly recording some Let’s Plays. Now that she’s in town for a couple months, it’s suddenly become actually feasible to do.

So, would there be any interest in seeing this? Current leading game candidates are leaning toward early-90s RPGs. 

The Nutcracker, the Mouse King, and the Puella Magi

The following is the record of a conversation I had with 01d55 regarding further resonances between E.A. Hoffman’s “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” and Puella Magi Madoka Magica. 

[14:55] <Froborr> You wanted to talk Nutcracker and Rebellion?
[14:55] <Arrlaari> Yeah
[14:55] <Froborr> Is it okay if I log this and use it for Wednesday’s post?
[14:55] == FoME [442704d2@gateway/web/freenode/ip.] has quit [Quit: Page closed]
[14:55] <Arrlaari> Of course
[14:55] <Froborr> Cool.
[14:55] <Arrlaari> I think I’ll start by talking about Pirlipat and Marie, but first  I gotta look up how to spell Pirlipat correctly
[14:56] <Froborr> lol
[14:58] <Arrlaari> Dang, I got it right by memory this time. Here’s the translation I’m using
[14:59] <Froborr> Okay.
[14:59] <Arrlaari> So, I’m going to call the Nutcracker “Prince Drosselmeier,” and his uncle “Judge Drosselmeier”, because Prince Drosselmeier is not the only Nutcracker in the story. Princess Pirlipat, like her destined prince, was a Nutcracker.
[14:59] <Froborr> *nods*
[14:59] <Arrlaari> She was born with a full set of teeth, and the clue that led Judge Drosselmeier to the ritual to remove her curse was how happy she was cracking nuts
[15:00] <Arrlaari> So Mouserinks’ curse didn’t turn either of them into Nutcrackers – they both always were and remained that – but it made them ugly, giving them the appearance of a toy Nutcracker
[15:01] <Arrlaari> When the curse is transferred to Prince Drosselmeier, Princess Pirlipat is repulsed by his ugliness and her father reneges on the promised reward (marriage into the royal family) and instead punishes Judge Drosselmeier, Prince Drosselmeier, and Gilder Drosselmeier with banishment
[15:01] <Froborr> Now, when you say they were Nutcrackers, do you mean the physical object, or do you just mean that they enjoyed cracking nuts?
[15:02] <Arrlaari> They were Crackers of Nuts
[15:02] <Froborr> Okay.
[15:02] <Arrlaari> Not simply that they enjoyed it, but they had notable talent for it
[15:03] <Froborr> Okay.
[15:03] <Arrlaari> Even though it was the King who decided to punish them instead of compelling them to accept a different reward, the story rather problematically condemns Pirlipat for rejecting Prince Drosselmeier and aggressively contrasts her with Marie
[15:04] <Froborr> *nod*
[15:04] <Arrlaari> In particular, Prince Drosselmeier himself asks the princesses of the Kingdom of Sweets if Pirlipat can compare to Marie, and they all immediately agree that Marie is way better
[15:05] <Froborr> Yes, it’s the “how dare you have physical standards, person whose entire society treats ugliness as a terrible curse” thing.
[15:05] <Arrlaari> This website deliberately makes it hard to copy and paste from it
[15:06] <Arrlaari> The last time Pirlipat is spoken of, it is the Prince calling her “the cruel Princess Pirlipat for whose sake I became ugly”
[15:07] <Froborr> Urgh.
[15:08] <Arrlaari> But there’s something interesting that happens much earlier: Marie sees a face looking up at her from the water of a lake in the Kingdom of Sweets and says that it is Pirlipat, smiling up at her. Prince Drosselmeier tells her that it is not Pirlipat, but Marie’s reflection
[15:09] <Arrlaari> And Judge Drosselmeier tells Marie that she was born a princess like Pirlipat, to which her mother replies that she thinks she knows what the Judge is talking about, but can’t explain why
[15:10] <Froborr> Huh.
[15:11] <Arrlaari> A buddhist reading is clear: Marie is Pirlipat’s reincarnation (it is implied that a great time passes between the tale of the hard nut and the events of the story), but Prince Drosselmeier does not want to forgive Pirlipat and therefore committs himself to the illusion that they are different people
[15:12] <Froborr> Wait, when did Pirlipat die?
[15:13] <Arrlaari> It’s not explicitly said, but it’s implied that Judge Drosselmeier, a wizard, outlives all the other characters in the Tale of the Hard Nut except the Prince, who is ageless as a Nutcracker doll
[15:13] <Arrlaari> This might be a tenditious reading but I think it works
[15:13] <Froborr> All right.
[15:14] <Froborr> (I am no stranger to tenuous readings, you may have noticed.)
[15:14] <Arrlaari> And now I turn to Madoka magica. Madoka is Pirlipat and Marie (who are the same), and the moment Homura “becomes ugly for her sake” is when she, at roughly the same time, reverts the timeline in which Madoka killed Mami but killing Madoka herself.
[15:15] <Froborr> *nods*
[15:15] <Arrlaari> Where the Prince commits himself to the illusion that Marie is not Pirlipat, Homura commits herself to the illusion that Madoka is blameless for the self-loathing that she feels for this
[15:16] <Froborr> Ahhhh I think I’m starting to get it.
[15:16] <Arrlaari> The idea of Madoka’s innocince (I know I mispelled that) becomes next to sacred for her
[15:17] <Arrlaari> Note that this moment is when Homura suddenly changes her self-presentation, which subsequent iterations of Madoka finds frightening and off-putting
[15:18] <Froborr> yep!
[15:18] <Arrlaari> The last episode of the series, when Madoka suddenly rescues Homura from defeat at the hands of Walpurgisnacht, parallels the end of the battle between the Nutcracker & dolls against the Mouse King and his army – in the book, this is not when the Mouse King dies, and in the series, Kyubey basically escapes unscathed
[15:20] <Arrlaari> Afterwards, Marie is bedridden because she cut herself putting her had through the glass doors of the toy cabinet (nitpick time: in Against Homura you write that Prince Drosselmeier leads that battle from a clockwork castle. In the book, the Nutcracker and Dolls sally from the toy cabinet, and all but Drosselmeier retreat to the cabinet by the end)
[15:20] <Arrlaari> While Madoka becomes an existence outside of time and space
[15:21] <Arrlaari> Judge Drosselmeier tells Marie the story of the hard nut while she is convalescing, and also repairs the Prince’s jaw. Madoka can see Homura’s past from outside space and time.
[15:22] <Arrlaari> But shortly after she recovers, Marie wakes up in a state of sleep paralysis, and the Mouse King emerges to threaten the Nutcracker’s life, demanding Marie’s candy in return
[15:23] <Arrlaari> The Mouse King’s mother, Mouserinks, came into conflict with Pirlipat’s family over fat (which was to be used in sausage), and the Mouse King demands candy. Sugar and Fat are known for being more or less “pure calories” – and calories are a unit of energy. The mice want energy, just as Kyubey does.
[15:24] <Froborr> Bit of a stretch, but I’ll go with it.
[15:24] <Arrlaari> And so Kyubey threatens Homura’s life (or afterlife), effectively demanding additional energy from converting magical girls into witches
[15:27] <Arrlaari> Marie gives into two nights’ worth of the Mouse King’s demands before the Prince asks that she instead give him a sword, and he uses it to slay the Mouse King off camera. As he reports his victory to Marie, he invites her to tour his Kingdom. Madoka gives Kyubey nothing, instead breaking Homura out of the seal. Homura takes Madoka to her own Kingdom of Sweets (named by the signage in the last shot before the credits) without
[15:27] <Arrlaari> while the universe is being rewritten, conqueres Kyubey decisively
[15:28] <Arrlaari> It’s a little bit out of order but basically fits
[15:28] <Froborr> A bit, yes.
[15:28] <Froborr> And arguably Madoka actually does give Kyubey something–the Incubators still get to collect their energy in Madoka’s new timeline, it’s only after Homura resets it that they’re cut of.
[15:29] <Froborr> *off
[15:29] <Arrlaari> The Incubator’s decide to cut themselves off (too dangerous!), but Homura insists that they continue to collect the curses that have been spread about the world – so she isn’t yet cutting them off
[15:30] <Arrlaari> Although she later implies that Maju, and hence the cubes, are finite
[15:30] <Arrlaari> It is significant that the movie ends on this note, because The Nutcracker does not. The death of the Mouse King does not break Mouserinks’ curse, and Homura’s triumph over Kyubey does not break the self-loathing that is her curse.
[15:32] <Arrlaari> After the tour, Marie returns to her home, and it is from there that she does break Mouserinks’ curse, whereafter Prince Drosselmeier appears in his true form to ask to be engaged to marry her. Only after that, plus an unspecified delay (Marie is nine years old) does Marie come to permanently reside in the Prince’s kingdom.
[15:33] <Arrlaari> Reading Homura’s life as a retelling of Prince Drosselmeier’s therefore leads us to predict that Madoka will indeed escape as she threatened to do in the hall scene, but also suggests that there is hope that this could lead to a true healing experience for Homura.
[15:34] <Arrlaari> So I got this far and I haven’t even mentioned Sin, which is a big part of my thinking on this
[15:34] <Froborr> Okay. So let’s talk sin.
[15:36] <Arrlaari> You’ve associated Homura with a form of Care Ethics, as that’s the system that justifies Homura’s decisions. For exactly that reason, Care Ethics cannot be the system to which Homura conciously subscribes. Homura does not believe herself to be justified, even before she declares himself a demon and the embodiment of evil.
[15:36] <Froborr> An excellent point.
[15:37] <Arrlaari> Homura appears to subscribe to the Christian value system in which Virtue is opposed to Sin. When thinking about the illusory world she has been trapped in, she thinks, in regard to forsaking their duty to hunt Maju, “such a sin should be unforgivable”
[15:39] <Arrlaari> One of the key elements of the idea of Sin is expressed, imprecisely, in “whosoever lusts after his neighbor’s wife, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” The idea can be clarified with a story about stealing an apple.
[15:40] <Arrlaari> Four people pass by an unguarded apple cart. The first is not hungry, and gives the cart little notice.
[15:40] <Arrlaari> The second is hungry, and thinks “I would like to take one of those apples and eat it, but they do not belong to me, therefore I have no right to take one.”
[15:41] <Arrlaari> The third is likewise hungry, and thinks “I would like to take one of those apples and it eat, but I may be caught and punished as a thief”
[15:41] <Arrlaari> The fourth thinks “I would like to take one of those apples and eat it”, and then does so
[15:42] <Arrlaari> The first man is innocent. The fourth man is guilty of theft. The second man has resisted temptation through virtue, and the third is no less a thief than the fourth – he has stolen the apple in his heart.
[15:44] <Arrlaari> And so even though Homura has reversed the timeline in which she shot and killed Madoka, she still believes that she carries the sin of murder in her heart. In Rebellion, there is a scene where she says that “she thought she could bear any sin” – and because she is willing to do anything for Madoka’s sake, she has, “in her heart” already done everything
[15:44] <Arrlaari> Including, for example, murdering  Sayaka in cold blood.
[15:45] <Froborr> Wait, when’d she do that?
[15:45] <Arrlaari> She didn’t – but only because Kyouko prevented her from doing it
[15:46] <Arrlaari> Therefore, by the standards she believes in, she had already killed Sayaka “in her heart”
[15:47] <Froborr> Ah.
[15:50] <Arrlaari> On the other hand, Homura thinks of Madoka as being purely innocent – she not only would refrain from murder (or any other bad act), she would not even think of it. Only the horrible circumstances of being a magical girl could spoil that innocence and cause her to kill Mami, and Homura believes she erased that timeline
[15:51] <Arrlaari> But after her ascension, Madoka can percieve that the distinction between things that did and did not happen is an illusion – as a Goddess she is no less the person who killed Mami than the person who merely witnessed Mami’s death, or the person who never met her
[15:52] <Arrlaari> That is something Homura, so far as I can tell, never processes. She thinks of Madoka Law of Cycles as being sacred like a god, especially pure.
[15:53] <Froborr> It likely helps that Madoka is not Christian and therefore has not been subjected to this particular brand of bullshit.
[15:53] <Arrlaari> More importantly, Madoka is the person who asked Homura to kill her even though that timeline was about to be reverted. She is cruel Princess Pirlipat, for whose sake Homura became Sinful.
[15:54] <Froborr> Ahhh, that’s how we get back to the Nutcracker.
[15:57] <Arrlaari> And if Homura’s curse is to be broken, it will have to be through forgiving Madoka – but that cannot happen while Homura denies Madoka’s responsibility, and therefore also her agency.
[15:58] <Arrlaari> And that also leads to the prediction that before that, Madoka will escape her current circumstance.
[15:59] <Arrlaari> As far as I can remember, that’s all, except for a very tenuous reading of Judge Drosselmeier
[15:59] <Arrlaari> Which is tangential to the themes
[16:00] <Froborr> Go for it, though, this is very interesting stuff.
[16:01] <Arrlaari> Alright. It’s hard to map the Judge to any of the characters who appear in Madoka Magica or Rebellion. As the one who leads Prince Drosselmeier to get into trouble in an attempt to rescue Pirlipat, he lines up with Kyubey, but afterwards he works to get the Prince out of his predicament – and Kyubey is already the Mice.
[16:02] <Arrlaari> Furthermore, he’s a blood relative to the Prince, but Homura appears to have no relatives.
[16:03] <Arrlaari> However, there is a figure who is metaphorically related to Homura. To contrast Madoka and Homura, Gen Urobuchi once said that Madoka is an “Ume Aoki character”, while Homura is a “Gen Urobuchi character.”
[16:05] <Froborr> Hmm.
[16:05] <Arrlaari> Judge Drosselmeier is described as a clockmaker as well as a judge, but it’s clear that Judging pays the bills and clockmaking is a passion – he’s simply a gear geek. There is a clockwork castle in the book, but rather than being the Prince’s castle, it’s one of the Judge’s works of art
[16:05] <Froborr> So the Judge is Urobuchi?
[16:06] <Arrlaari> When Fritz and Marie ask him to make the people in the castle move differently, he tells them that “once it has been put together, it only goes one way” and when they lose interest, he sulks until their mother asks him to show her how it works, which cheers him up.
[16:07] <Arrlaari> And yes, The Judge is Urobuchi – when he is about to begin telling Marie the story of the hard nut, their mother says “I hope, dear Mr. Drosselmeier, that your story won’t be as horrible as the ones you usually tell.”
[16:08] <Froborr> Heheh, which of course draws this and Princess Tutu inexorably closer together.
[16:09] <Arrlaari> The Judge is the one who brings the Prince to Marie, but he also brings the Mouse King to the both of them – he stops the Grandfather clock from striking twelve, which is implied to have either summoned the Mouse King or prevented the chime from warding him away
[16:10] <Arrlaari> Also notable: The Prince clearly resents the Judge. When Marie tells him that the Judge will fix his jaw, his eyes shoot green sparks. During the tour, when Marie recognizes the lake as being like one the Judge once promised her, the Prince dismissively says that she is as likely to make such a lake as the Judge
[16:13] <Arrlaari> The Judge knows that only Marie can break the curse on the Prince, and manipulates the circumstances to bring that about, just as Urobuchi knew that only Madoka could break the curse on his works, represented by Homura
[16:15] <Froborr> Innnteresting.
[16:16] <Froborr> And again, the fact that Drosselmeyer is the main villain of Princess Tutu and his primary motivation is a preference for stories that end in tragedy makes this whole interpretation hilarious in the best way possible.
[16:16] <Arrlaari> I didn’t know that about Princess Tutu, which I haven’t seen, but that is pretty great.
[16:17] <Arrlaari> I brought up the Judge’s gear geekery for two points – one, Urobuchi is evidently a firearms geek, two, the line about “once it has been put together, it only goes one way” suggests fatalism.
[16:17] <Froborr> You should! Drosselmeyer is the main villain. He is more than a little bit implied to be the same character as from the Nutcracker, though more the ballet than the book.
[16:18] <Froborr> Plus there’s all the clockwork imagery associated with Homura.
[16:18] <Arrlaari> Yeah. In the book, the clockwork castle goes on the top shelf of the toy cabinet, with the rest of Drosselmeier’s “works of art”
[16:19] <Arrlaari> I found that element of his characterization quite endearing
[16:19] <Arrlaari> Perhaps mostly because I am favorably inclined towards geeks, even of things for which I am not myself geeky
[16:23] <Arrlaari> But I think it’s really cute how this man, who is an ancient wizard, goes into a childish sulk when children don’t appreciate his clockwork castle, and then cheers up as soon as he’s asked to explain it
[16:24] <Froborr> Fair enough.
[16:26] <Arrlaari> I think that’s all I’ve got. Do you have questions?
[16:26] <Froborr> Nope. This was a really interesting interpretation.
[16:26] <Froborr> I clearly need to actually read the Nutcracker now.
[16:27] <Arrlaari> Oh, one observation: When Kyubey is explaining the experiment to Homura, she is standing in a glass cabinet
[16:28] <Arrlaari> After reading the translation I linked above, I was able to see several visual callbacks that I hadn’t associated before.

A video game story structure I’d like to see more of

Apologies for lack of posting. I got really, really sick on Sunday and remained such throughout yesterday. Still a bit wobbly, but I can work.

So I’ve been thinking a little bit about video game storytelling. Basically, most genres of video game tell their stories indirectly, through visual and musical cues and the gameplay itself, without much in the way of traditional text. (See Mega Man II for arguably the moment at which this technique was first perfected.) The player themselves constructs most of the narrative, imbuing their character with personality through the decisions the player makes in the game.

Of course, as video games have become more filmic, this approach has been somewhat superseded by the use of tools such as cutscenes and voice acting to firmly establish the characters’ personalities, while increasing amounts of text (both written and spoken aloud) permit the establishment of more complex, concrete stories. There’s nothing wrong with this shift (unless you’re substantially worse at coming up with compelling characters than your players were, see Final Fantasy series, history of), and some truly great games have been made which give the player no say in the story at all–I like Xenosaga as much as, and probably more than, the next person.

But one structure I really like, and wish there were more of, is a combination of the two: a game where you both control a character and shape who they are and what they do, and participate in the telling of a complex and interesting story. Specifically, one that does this by distinguishing between plot and story, between a sequence of events in linear time and the presentation of those events to the player.

Namely, I’m referring to video games where the story begins very near the end of the plot, and part of the game consists of discovering what happened up to this point. Two games come immediately to mind as doing this well, and both use similar mechanics to accomplish it: Metroid Prime and The Ur-Quan Masters.

In the case of the former, by the time Samus arrives on Tallon IV, virtually the entire plot has already happened: the Chozo encountered, were corrupted by, and then annihilated by Phazon, then years later the Space Pirates began experimenting on it, creating Metroid Prime. All that is left is the final chapter, in which Samus stumbles onto the Space Pirate base, finds her way to Metroid Prime, kills it, and destroys the base. From the perspective of the Space Pirates, it is a story of their hubris and resulting humiliation and destruction by their equivalent to the boogeyman; from Samus’ perspective, it’s the story of another day’s work blowing up Space Pirates and their dangerous biological experiments, albeit one with long-term consequences explored in the sequels. But the plot of both stories is the same–and within the game, which is from Samus’ perspective, it’s revealed almost entirely through files the player has the option of finding and reading.

In The Ur-Quan Masters, once again by the time the player’s ship arrives at Earth virtually the entire plot has already happened, a span of thousands of years of which the game itself comprises at most five to seven (depending on how quickly the player moves and whether they manage to get the time limit extended). It is a rather more text-heavy game than Metroid Prime, as befits an action-RPG as opposed to a first-person shooter, but since the player both picks their dialogue options and is not voiced, there is still significant freedom for the player to shape their character’s personality. More importantly, the player is simply dropped into a world in which there are quite a lot of things going on, with no walls and no limits except the fuel capacity and fighting capability of their ship. The number of tasks which have to completed to end the game is quite small compared to the number of tasks available, and there are few restrictions as the to the order in which the player can complete those tasks, meaning the story is very much up to the player to shape. But optional conversations with others can reveal a plot stretching back thousands of years, full of pain and revenge and tragedy (quite astonishing in a game as generally lighthearted and laugh-out-loud funny as this), with more recent events generally easier to discover than more ancient history.

In both games, because relatively little of the plot happens during the story, it is possible for the writer to exert fine control–and thus finely craft–that plot, creating something compelling, interesting, and professional, while the final few beats are provided by the player, creating something immersive, interactive, and personal. It’s a fine compromise between the demands of story and the demands of game, and one I’d like to see more of.

*The greatest game of all time, previously titled Star Control II before the owners of the trademark on the name screwed over the owners of the copyright on the code and story. If you have not played it, go get it, it’s been open-source for years now. No, really, stop reading right now and go play it. I don’t care if you’re at work, do it.

Ponify everything! (My Little Investigations Case 1: True Blue Scootaloo)

I mean, there’s definitely still Ace Attorney in its DNA.

It’s April 9, 2014. The top song is “Happy” by Pharrell Williams, and the top movie is Captain America: The Winter Soldier, arguably the best to date of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In the news, the High Court of Australia takes a step in the right direction by establishing a third, “other” gender, while the U.S. Supreme Court takes another step toward plutocracy by overturning the limit on how much an individual can donate to a political campaign; pro-Russian activists in Donetsk, Ukraine declare an independent Donetsk People’s Republic; and on the day this game is released, a student stabs 20 people at a high school in Murrysville, Pennsylvania.

Friendship Is Magic is on a two-week hiatus before the final four episodes of Season Four, but pony fans have something else to occupy their time: after three years of development, the fan group Equestrian Dreamers releases the much-anticipated first installment in a planned series, My Little Investigations. The premise of this series is to combine the setting and characters of Friendship Is Magic with mechanics based on Ace Attorney Investigations, a spinoff of the Phoenix Wright series that focuses on investigating and solving crimes through point-and-click adventure game mechanics.

I have written before about Friendship Is Magic crossovers, and noted with both Doctor Who and Phoenix Wright that there is a tendency for said crossovers to consist of Friendship Is Magic characters having an adventure in the style of the other work in the crossover–that is, for the narrative structure of Friendship Is Magic to deform in order to fit into the other work, as opposed to the two meeting in the middle. In the case of Doctor Who I explained it in terms of that series’ flexibility and ability to emboit and absorb other stories; in the case of Phoenix Wright I pointed to the rigid, ritualistic structure of the series as necessitating Friendship Is Magic to change to match.

However, it is worth considering that Friendship Is Magic itself may be the cause of this phenomenon. The series has notably strong characters, clearly defined and with readily accessible, idiosyncratic personalities, but relatively less worldbuilding and continuity than most of the geek-culture icons that tend to show up in crossovers. The very strength and diverse personalities of those characters makes it both easy and appealing to imagine them in different settings or story types, such that, for example, it is easier to immediately imagine what Twilight Sparkle would do upon finding herself in Middle-Earth than to imagine what Frodo would do on finding himself in Equestria–and easier to imagine how Applejack’s response would differ from Twilight’s than it is to imagine how Pippin’s would differ from Frodo’s.

But this isn’t a crossover; it is literally an attempt to place the Friendship Is Magic characters into the structure and mechanics of another game. Why, then, does it feel more like Friendship Is Magic than any of the genuine crossovers I’ve looked at for this project?

Which is not to say that it perfectly emulates Friendship Is Magic‘s feel. It is very much a fan game–like “Double Rainboom,” it is at times more interested in depicting the characters as fanworks tend to than as they are depicted in the show. This is most notable with Pinkie Pie, who, rather than merely interacting with the medium or occasionally showing hints of knowledge she would not be expected to possess, instead flagrantly and directly addresses the player, makes references to being in a video game, and provides tutorials which, according to her, she learned by reading a walkthrough of the game. From the perspective of other characters, especially Twilight Sparkle, this comes across as typically incomprehensible Pinkie Pie behavior, but the player knows exactly what she’s talking about. The result is that Pinkie becomes predictable, her actions completely explicable, and therefore no longer funny.

But despite this gaff, it does feel very much like Friendship Is Magic‘s world and themes. Several familiar, but non-obvious, Ponyville locations are used, namely the town center, Carousel Boutique, and the Cutie Mark Crusaders’ clubhouse. By avoiding some of the more iconic and outlandish, locations, such as Golden Oak Library, Fluttershy’s house, or Rainbow Dash’s house, the game creates a real sense of Ponyville as a place where people live.

The story also feels like something that could be an episode. The premise of it is that Scootaloo accidentally rode her scooter through Rarity’s window while practicing stunts, and witnessed the theft of a large emerald called “True Blue.” However, since Rarity only saw Scootaloo there, that makes her the prime suspect, and the investigative team being sent from Canterlot is not known for competence. Twilight thus takes it upon herself to find Scootaloo, who has disappeared, clear her name, and solve the crime before the investigators arrive.

Much of the story is predictable from the opening scene; this is very much the sort of mystery story that the audience solves long before the detective, as is often the case in the Phoenix Wright series. It is fairly obvious that Scootaloo is hiding because she’s afraid of being punished for breaking Rarity’s window, and that the Diamond Dogs from “A Dog and Pony Show” are the thieves. Far more interesting, in the end, is why they stole that particular gem–and again, that seems fitting for Friendship Is Magic, with its strong emphasis on character.

The game even has friendship lessons–notably, ones broadly related to honesty and kindness, which is interesting because Applejack and Fluttershy are the only members of the Mane Six who do not appear. Indeed, in having two friendship lessons that play off of one another, it rather anticipates Season Four’s practice of doing precisely that. (Although it was released late in Season Four, the long development time makes it highly unlikely that Season Four had any influence on the game’s story.)

One of the game’s mechanics also enhances the feel of it being a pony game, rather than an Ace Attorney game with ponies in it: the Partner System. Introduced a little over halfway through the game, partners are characters that follow Twilight around and have up to two abilities, one passive and the other needing to be triggered by the player. The first partner available in this case is Apple Bloom, who has only a passive ability because she doesn’t have a cutie mark–namely, she causes interactions with the Cutie Mark Crusaders to change, because of her friendship with them. The second is Rarity, whose passive ability is to change interactions with Diamond Dogs because she intimidates them, and whose active ability, based on her gem-finding spell, triggers a sort of Hot and Cold minigame that can be used to find otherwise invisible clues.

This reliance on friends is a welcome addition to the standard point-and-click mechanic, and as I said works well with the Friendship Is Magic characters and setting. I imagine that future games will have puzzles that require switching between partners, which could be interesting.

Ultimately, My Little Investigations shows that it is at least possible to create a “crossover” that retains a strong Friendship Is Magic feel. Time will tell if more begin to appear in other media.

Next week: I guess I don’t have any choice, do I? There’s no legitimate way to skip discussing this.

Kill la Kill Liveblog Chat Thingy: Episode 4

How to participate in the liveblog chat:

Option 1: Whenever you watch the episode, comment on this post as you watch with whatever responses you feel like posting!

Option 2: Go to Enter a nickname, then for the Channels field enter ##rabbitcube, and finally fill in the Captcha and hit Connect! We’ll be watching the episode and commenting there starting at 2:00 p.m. EST. That is back to the usual time.

Chatlog below the cut!


[14:01] <Froborr> …Have I mentioned I really dislike Mako’s family?
[14:01] <Froborr> Also, who does laundry at 4 am?
[14:01] <Froborr> Other than me, I mean.
[14:01] <FoME> Mako’s mother, apparently.
[14:01] <FoME> The woman may or may not sleep.
[14:02] <Froborr> This reminds me of my favorite Spider-Man storyline.
[14:02] <FoME> Well, we’re at the theme song. Do tell.
[14:03] <Froborr> It’s an early one, Spider-Man’s existence has only just become common knowledge.
[14:03] <Froborr> And in the previous storyline, one of his classmates dressed as Spider-Man for a costume party and got kidnapped by Doctor Doom.
[14:03] <Arrlaari> Crunchyroll marks ads on the timeline, so it looks like one will start at the end of the credits
[14:03] <Froborr> Okay, I’ll pause there.
[14:04] <FoME> And we have ad.
[14:04] <Froborr> Aunt May was therefore VERY WORRIED when she found a costume in Peter’s room, and confiscated it.
[14:04] <Froborr> So he had to buy a back-up from a costume store, adn it didn’t fit properly, so he had to web the mask in place.
[14:04] <Arrlaari> Ad started shortly after credit song
[14:05] <Arrlaari> ad ended
[14:05] <FoME> And we’re back.
[14:05] <Froborr> Two issues later, Doc Ock has him unconscious and tries to unmask him…
[14:05] == Sylocat [b83c1916@gateway/web/freenode/ip.] has joined ##rabbitcube
[14:05] <FoME> Hi Sylo.
[14:05] <Froborr> And can’t because the webbing.
[14:05] <Sylocat> Crud! Sorry I’m late
[14:05] <Froborr> Np, we only just passed the credits.
[14:05] <Sylocat> Alright, I’ll try and fast-forward
[14:06] <Froborr> Okay, so WHY do they have to do an obstacle course or else get expelled?
[14:06] <FoME> Because.
[14:06] <Froborr> Is there a motive for this?
[14:06] <Sylocat> It’s probably a metaphor for… something
[14:06] <Arrlaari> One girl in the whole crowd is super into Gamagoori sleeping in the nude
[14:06] <FoME> The same motive where stealing a uniform gets you hung from the neck until dead.
[14:06] <Froborr> Yep, I noticed that. It amused me.
[14:06] <Arrlaari> The whole school is about over the top social darwinism
[14:07] <Froborr> So, just the underlying sadism of the authoritarian mindset?
[14:07] <Froborr> So this is the “Ryuko proves she’s still a badass without her super-suit” episode, yes?
[14:07] <FoME> Yup. Remember, “fashion” and “fascism” are very nearly homophones in Japanese.
[14:08] <Sylocat> AHAHAHAH… oh yikes
[14:08] <FoME> “Go on without me.” “Okay.”
[14:08] <Sylocat> Awww
[14:09] <Arrlaari> Ad imminent
[14:09] <Froborr> I am immensely suspicious of broken-arm girl.
[14:09] <Arrlaari> Ad begun
[14:09] <FoME> “Did I mention I’m not a villain?”
[14:09] <Froborr> Paused.
[14:09] <Arrlaari> Ad ended.
[14:10] <Arrlaari> Crunchyroll can’t seem to sell ads so every ad is two runs of the same 14 second ad for Crunchyroll’s subscription service.
[14:10] <Sylocat> Of course
[14:10] <Froborr> I see Mako’s dad learned to drive from watching Lupin III.
[14:11] <Sylocat> Dang, this level is pretty tough for so early in the game
[14:11] <Froborr> Well, she IS doing the no-Senketsu challenge.
[14:12] <Sylocat> “Vile hellhound?”
[14:12] <FoME> Massive bragging rights for that one.
[14:12] <Arrlaari> “Both school and their homes”
[14:13] <Sylocat> So hijack it
[14:13] <Froborr> I’m starting to think this school is a metaphor for something, just possibly perhaps a little bit maybe.
[14:13] <Sylocat> She sounds so cheerful
[14:14] <Arrlaari> ad started
[14:14] <Arrlaari> I was about two seconds late on that
[14:14] <Arrlaari> ad ended
[14:15] <Sylocat> Ooh, Mako gets to command a gun turret! I love those minigames!
[14:15] <Arrlaari> I like how the translators used “totes” there
[14:15] <Froborr> Yeah, that fits well with Mako’s character.
[14:15] <Sylocat> Oh no… the Blue Danube!
[14:15] <Froborr> Oh hey, they found the Rocket Jump cheat!
[14:15] <Arrlaari> This episode is like Looney Tunes
[14:15] <Sylocat> It’s the Red Green movie all over again
[14:15] <Arrlaari> Down to the use of public domain classical music
[14:15] <Froborr> Hard to pull off with a vehicle.
[14:16] <Sylocat> And now she gets stripped again
[14:16] <Sylocat> Eeyup
[14:16] <Sylocat> Of course
[14:17] <FoME> Guts fainted! Use next Pokémon?
[14:17] <Froborr> Yep.
[14:17] <Sylocat> Ooh, she wants it for herself, not for Satsuki?
[14:18] <Sylocat> This is getting complex
[14:18] <Froborr> I will admit, I did not see her wanting it for herself coming.
[14:18] <Sylocat> Whoa, she clipped right through her uniform!
[14:19] <Sylocat> This game has wonky collision detection
[14:19] <FoME> Unequip one armor, equip the other.
[14:19] <Sylocat> “Strepower?”
[14:19] <Sylocat> Is that supposed to be “Stripower?”
[14:19] <FoME> I think it’s a portmanteau.
[14:20] <Arrlaari> If you listen, she was saying chikara and powa (power) so they went with strength and power
[14:20] <Sylocat> Ahh, I see
[14:20] <Sylocat> AHAHAH
[14:20] <Sylocat> Oh yikes, Senketsu has taste in blood?
[14:20] <FoME> Still a better vampire romance than… yeah, that joke’s overdone.
[14:20] <Sylocat> Whoa!
[14:20] <Arrlaari> Looney tunes
[14:21] <Froborr> lol, they Wile E. Coyote’d them.
[14:21] <Sylocat> Trompe L’oiel
[14:21] <Froborr> That is the first time this show was actually funny.
[14:21] <Sylocat> A suicide screwover?
[14:21] <FoME> Nope.
[14:22] <Sylocat> Well, I knew she wasn’t going to die, but I thought she’d survive by accident
[14:23] <Sylocat> Ooh, ski lift!
[14:23] <Sylocat> Oops, she’s in trouble
[14:24] <Sylocat> Dang, he don’t give a fuck
[14:24] <FoME> Buhler?
[14:24] <Froborr> *sighs*
[14:25] <Froborr> That was… eh.
[14:25] <FoME> This is basically the one filler episode in the series.
[14:25] <Froborr> I guess it was a comedy episode? But it was just trying so hard. You could *see* them straining desperately to wring every drop of wackiness out of the premise.
[14:26] <Sylocat> The preview guy talks like Jaqen H’ghar
[14:26] <Arrlaari> That was a very popular episode, and I like it alot myself. The 3x repeated gag is bothersome, but the rest of it I am 100% down for
[14:26] <Froborr> Heh, I cut it off before the preview.
[14:27] <FoME> Likewise. Whoops.
[14:27] <Sylocat> (I can’t believe I spelled his name right without having to Google it)
[14:27] <Froborr> Well, let’s talk about that then–what is it you like about it? Do you find it funny? Exciting?
[14:27] <Froborr> Because I spent it basically bored, and I’m curious what I missed.
[14:27] <Sylocat> Eh, I like it as a send-up of anime tropes and teen culture in general
[14:28] <FoME> I admit, I’m easily entertained by wacky antics.
[14:28] <Arrlaari> Well basically I am down for something that is willing to commit that completely to the premise
[14:28] <Sylocat> Plus, the battle scenes in this one were kickass
[14:29] <Arrlaari> It’s kind of worrying that you don’t like Mako’s family because they are exemplary of this show’s aesthetic
[14:29] <FoME> Which is to say, endearingly insane.
[14:29] <Sylocat> I dunno… I also find Mako’s family kinda tedious, but I like the rest of it
[14:29] <Arrlaari> I don’t follow the fandom at large super closely but my impression is that Mako is in competition with Satsuki for the title of most popular character
[14:30] <Sylocat> No competition for me, Satsuki is awesome
[14:30] <Froborr> I find them very annoying, one-note characters whose only note is “Hey! HEY! LOOK AT MY ONE NOTE!”
[14:30] <Froborr> Satsuki *is* pretty cool so far.
[14:30] <FoME> Princess Eyebrows is pretty awesome, yes.
[14:31] <Sylocat> The whole thing reminds me of Scott Pilgrim, a little
[14:31] <Arrlaari> Well, if you’re willing to put up with a lot more Mako in order to get a lot more Satsuki, you’re going to get both
[14:31] <Froborr> Film or comic?
[14:31] <Sylocat> A little of both
[14:32] <Sylocat> Film, mostly, though…
[14:32] <Froborr> I don’t really see it.
[14:32] <Froborr> The film was a musical with the musical numbers replaced by equally OTT fight sequences.
[14:32] <Arrlaari> Out of curiosity, who here has seen Gurenn Lagan?
[14:32] <Sylocat> The way it contextualizes youth drama as video game clichés
[14:32] <Froborr> This, on the other hand, is NOTHING BUT OTT fight sequences.
[14:33] <Froborr> Oh, okay, yeah, I can sort of see that… except so far I haven’t detected any actual youth drama.
[14:33] <Sylocat> The high school pecking order, fashion angst, &c.
[14:33] <Froborr> I have seen Gurren Lagann, I freakin’ loved it.
[14:34] <FoME> I like to think of Kill La Kill as TTGL’s distaff counterpart.
[14:34] <Arrlaari> That’s also the impression I have
[14:34] <Sylocat> Yeah, Gurren Lagaan is awesome
[14:34] <Arrlaari> It’s not a sequel but it feels to me like it’s “more like that”
[14:35] <Froborr> I think the problem I have is, again, the lack of dynamics.
[14:36] <Froborr> You know pop music gets autotuned to be at max volume all the time so there is no variation in it whatsoever, and it sounds and feels incredibly artificial and flat?
[14:36] <Froborr> This feels like someone autotuned Gurren Lagann.
[14:36] <Sylocat> To each their own, I suppose
[14:37] <Froborr> Yeah.
[14:37] <Froborr> I liked the previous episode! It had characters in it.
[14:37] <Froborr> I want more like that.
[14:37] <FoME> You’ll get them.
[14:37] <Sylocat> I guess we’ll see
[14:38] <FoME> At least, I think you’ll get them. I call myself FanOfMostEverything for a reason. I’m not exactly an unbiased source.
[14:38] <Froborr> I’m sorry. I’m trying not to be Mr. Crankypants Hatesfun, but thus far this show is mostly not working for me.
[14:38] <Arrlaari> One of the elements of this show’s style is throwing stuff at you and just letting them be there without explanation, then much later explaining them
[14:39] <Arrlaari> I feel like you’re going to like the latter parts of this show a lot more than the early parts
[14:39] <Froborr> I’m okay with that style. I mean, I’m a huge Utena fan, and that doesn’t even *start* explaining what’s going on until episode 34 of 39.
[14:40] <Sylocat> I can understand that… I probably wouldn’t like it either, if I wasn’t such a sucker for this kind of thing
[14:41] <Froborr> For me it’s not so much that it’s not explained as that I just haven’t been given a reason to care about Ryuko or Mako or Mako’s family. Thus far there is no hint that they are anything other than shouty blobs of digital paint.
[14:42] <Froborr> But it *did* have at least one episode I enjoyed in the first three, and that means I watch the season.
[14:42] <Froborr> That is The Rules.
[14:43] <Froborr> And I do hope you’re right that I enjoy the later parts more–I probably will, if you’re correct that there’s more Satsuki in them.
[14:43] <FoME> Much more.
[14:43] <Arrlaari> The Elite Four might also win you over
[14:44] <Froborr> I dunno, that Lance bastard cheats like anything.
[14:44] <Froborr> His Dragonite literally cannot exist!
[14:45] <Arrlaari> I was going to ask which one you were nicknaming Lance and then I remembered he’s in the elite four of the one Pokemon game I played
[14:45] <FoME> Sadly, “Puff of Logic” wasn’t added until Ruby/Sapphire.
[14:45] <Froborr> lol
[14:46] <Froborr> I am actually endlessly amused that he’s the main villain of the Yellow arc of Pokemon Special. Because he’s such a damn, dirty cheater in the game.
[14:46] <Arrlaari> Well, I guess he was in the two pokemon games I played, since I got both blue and red
[14:46] <Arrlaari> I did that so I could Catch Them All. The reason I didn’t get any of the sequels is because they added hundreds of new pokemon and didn’t remove any of the previous pokemon and that is just too many pokemon
[14:47] <Arrlaari> I can’t catch all that
[14:47] <Froborr> Yeah, I have never successfully Caught Them All.
[14:47] <FoME> Despite the imperative, neither have I.
[14:47] <Arrlaari> I completed the pokedexes in Blue and Red. It involved a lot of trading and then immediately trading back
[14:47] <Arrlaari> And after that I was Done With Pokemon
[14:48] <Froborr> I gave up on Pokemon after Black and White, the Revolutionary New Games That Changed Everything!! …and were exactly the same game as I’d been buying for 15+ years.
[14:48] <Froborr> Anyway, any final thoguhts on Kill la Kill before I copypasta the chat over to the blog?
[14:48] <Arrlaari> To be honest, I feel like new games shouldn’t have old names
[14:48] <FoME> Nintendo! If it ain’t broke, don’t do anything that might fix it.
[14:49] <Arrlaari> Next episode is going to be Uncomfortable
[14:49] <Froborr> Be fair: Mario 64, Ocarina of Time, and Metroid Prime were all spectacularly revolutionary for their franchises.
[14:49] <FoME> All true, and I loved all of them.
[14:50] <FoME> And yes, next episode may actually make you feel something for Ryuko.
[14:50] <Froborr> Good, the show DESPERATELY NEEDS that.
[14:51] <Sylocat> Sorry, I was AFK
[14:51] <Sylocat> I always liked Lance, I don’t know why
[14:51] <Froborr> I mean, I don’t need something pointlessly tragic happening to her. It could be something that makes her happy! Or angry! Or anything!
[14:51] <Froborr> Just something that gives me some hint that she has a personality.
[14:52] <Arrlaari> That’s not the kind of Uncomfortable I was talking about. I can see what FoME is talking about but I feel he’s being optimistic.

[14:53] <Froborr> Well, we’ll see.

[14:53] <Froborr> I’m’a copypasta this now.

Good movies can be problematic too

I dunno what’s wrong, I just can’t make my brain do fiction today. Since I already had this post queued up for Monday, I’m moving it up, and I’ll swap Fiction Friday to Monday.

So, I saw How to Train Your Dragon 2 and Edge of Tomorrow. Both are quite entertaining high-concept action movies, and I recommend them both.

That said, holy crap are they incredibly white. HTTYD sort of has an excuse, in that it’s in a fantasy setting with Vikings… except not really, because they’ve already given the Vikings fucking dragons, having some variation in skin tone wouldn’t be more of a departure. Plus, I do think it says something that most of the escapist fantasy worlds our culture provides, from Leave it to Beaver to, well, How to Train Your Dragon,  are suspiciously monochrome.

Edge of Tomorrow, meanwhile, depicts a massive multi-national fighting force, in a world where continental Europe has already fallen (that’s not a spoiler, it’s established in the opening montage), and it’s got maybe three black guys and one Latino. Most notably, apparently no one in all of Africa and the Middle East is paying any attention whatsoever to the massive alien army knocking on their gates, since there’s no mention of them being involved on the Mediterranean front.

And again, yeah, we only see the forces stationed in Britain, but the accents imply that most of the forces there are American. The American military is nowhere near that white–but of course this is an escapist action fantasy, and apparently part of what filmmakers and audiences want to escape from is the existence of people of color.