Kickstarter to print doujins

With the death and resurrection of sadpanda, the question that many had were about archiving and saving materials. While this is all nice and good on the surface, and yours truly considers the older material to be paramount in terms of pop-culture history, the fact is that the site is working under the gray label of piracy. The creators of these comics know that it exists, and sometimes they have despaired about the situation. Some of them have considered sadpanda’s existence as net loss of revenue due to their comics being there rather than every user buying their comics while others recognise that piracy does not equal loss of sales. Not every person pirating something would’ve bought any of it in the first place, though piracy does seem to work as a sort of free advertisement, where people who truly enjoy the work probably fork the money for the product they consumed.

However, with doujinshi this is somewhat difficult. Sites like DMM and DLSite offer some comics to buy and read, but the issue here is that half of them are under DRM, have low image quality and is digital only. These are Japanese services with English storefronts, though you can find English language stores like Project Hentai that offer purchases in physical form in English. However, with shops like these, there are usually very limited quantity of each item and the prices can be a bit high at times.

NijiGEN aims to alleviate this situation somewhat, a Kickstater that aims to allow more direct sales between the customer and the creator. NijiGEN’s model would be to sell you a high resolution version of the comic which you could then print. This approach would eliminate the problem of low-resolution files that are kicking around, even on official store sites, but they’d be in a timed format. The intention is that you’d be able to print your own physical copy of the comic via a printer. Ultimately, the cost of printing your own comic is relatively low, even when you pick up the proper paper and tools to do it. With the possibility of modifying and selling e.g. postcards and such, and then selling them forwards in a limited fashion.

This sounds really stupid, why would this be any success? The creators of this Kickstarter are aware of three things, which launched the idea; the existence of potential market for physical medium in Overseas market, the censorship that doujinshi and other adult material books have gone through in Japan in recent decade (especially when going toward the Olympics) and the issue of piracy. However, the market section for this Kickstarter is extremely niche. First you’d need to be a person who wants physical copies of these comics, and secondly you’d need to be in the mindset of taking part of the whole doujinshi creation. Part of self-publishing is either ordering your book made or printing and binding things at home. I have to say, binding your own book is extremely fun. This service would allow the user to bypass large amounts of problems that may arise through ordering, like possible customs or legal issues. By the end of the day, printing your own quality comic would cost less than buying one and having it shipped from an online shop.

You of course face few problems, which probably break this model. Not all people have a decent printer, opting for a cheap one instead. Secondly, not all people know how to print properly. While standard settings are usually fine, the reality is that printing is a rabbit hole of problems and options, proofing and sometimes even trial and error. The timed source files will also rub some people the wrong way, putting them under pressure to get the most out from their purchase before the files expire. Some people would rather just buy the high resolution files and be done with them and not bother with physical editions at all, something that most modern audiences that have never been part of self-creating circles would always opt for first. This is why I don’t see the Kickstarter becoming funded, outside the whole issue of this being a Kickstarter, but the core idea is still valid; the closest second the customer who can’t buy the books they want, self-printing. The customer that is most common nowadays expects to be readily catered without any much effort put in themselves. The same reason why model kits don’t sell nowadays outside niche audience and have become extremely easy to build and are readily built. Self-made, or handicrafts, is not in fashion currently.

I’d like a service like this. The concept of involving the customer as part of the circle as the person responsible for final edits, printing and binding, is great. Extremely niche, and that’ll probably be its doom.

While you’re looking stuff on Kickstarter, consider backing Your Everyday Life with Konko for some headpats and relaxing storytelling.

Review; Columbus Circle’s Gley Lancer re-release

Few years back I decided to pick up and review Battle Mania‘s Chinese knock-off/reproduction cart from eBay for cheap. Time hasn’t been all that kind to my views on the reproduction, and in hindsight it is just atrociously bad. Fast forward to 2019 and I’m sitting here with another new Mega Drive game cart in my hand. This time, a licensed re-realease of Advanced Busterhawk Gley Lancer. extreme has their hands on all of Masaya’s IPs, and apparently Columbus Circle saw it fit to license Gley Lancer and give it a quality rerun. This is review of the package and quality of the production, not a review of the game. The game’s 9/10 shooting game, go buy it. I would recommend reading the previously linked Battle Mania review for some comparison.

Completely new boxart

First impressions are important, and the packaging doesn’t falter. The box has the same feel as the original Mega Drive game boxes, that sort of somewhat cheap feel of plastic that could break anytime, but can still take a beating. The surface texture on the transparent plastic wrap is there and it gives the perfect kind of feel under your fingers. It looks and feels the part; a genuine Mega Drive game. The cover sleeve is thin matte paper, again just like the original MD games. The print quality is perfect without losing any details. Furthermore, if you don’t want to see two girls on a box of this game, you can always reverse the sleeve for the original boxart image.

 

This adds value, and collectors can have the original cover just fine. However, Columbus Circle did make certain that people would not be tricked, as they slapped their logo on the spine and contact information on the back. I should also point out the additional text at the bottom of the cover mentioning that this isn’t Sega Games endorsed product. This is sort of unofficialy official Mega Drive game, produced with the proper license from the IP holder, but without Sega’s involvement.

These first impressions on the outside of a product like this take a long way. Collectors who showcase their games want the appearance to be right. However, the insides need to be satisfying as well for those who will keep playing the game as normal, like yours truly.

Everything is, of course, new. While pretty much every and all MD carts out there are black, Columbus Circle used a semi-transparent smoke coloured one for Gley Lancer. While a personal preference says it looks like, it might’ve been better to go with the same solid black as standard MD cartridge. However, the texture around the label gives a nice grip. Again, this sort of tactile feedback takes a product a long way forward. Some Japanese cartridges did feel a bit cheap back in the day for whatever reason, Western carts just had better build overall. This one is somewhere in-between, having better plastic than the Japanese releases, but not as good as European or American. The mould used however has been excellent, as the shell halves fit together rather perfectly. The label print is top notch, nothing to bitch about here. It just has been applied too close to the bottom, meaning there’s a lot of empty space at the back, and that the on the lower left corner is taken some very minor damage. Not that this was all that rare back in the day, but whoever put these on probably didn’t really care.

At the back you see the main reason why this review won’t have PCB pictures; the screws are covered by a label. You can see the spot on the left where I’ve pressed the label is somewhat to expose the rims of the screw holes. Columbus Circle branded these carts with their own logo, which again makes it stand apart from original cartridges. Your mileage may vary whether or not you like this, but it nevertheless does give the whole deal a different feel. You won’t forget that this was produced in 2019. By that extension, you might not feel that this is “real” despite having licensed and all under its belt. Notice that the label is slightly peeled on the right there. This either means that the label is robust enough to start coming off by itself, or the applier just screwed this up as well. Heating the adhesive a bit and reapplying should remedy this well enough. In addition to this, there are some problems with the cartridge.

While original cartridges had the injection tabs in the same place, the quality assurance never left large, broken surfaces. This isn’t the case with this particular copy, and I don’t really think the manufacturer cared too much about the rest either. Rather than taking the time and effort to file or sand down the tabs completely, they’re largely left in their original state. The tabs rise some two millimeters off the inside surface, and while they don’t interfere with the game’s insertion into the console, they do look rather tacky. Taking a knife and cutting them even or otherwise leveling them isn’t a problem or a major task, but something that just degrades from the overall quality of the product. This probably is the largest gripe, which says a lot otherwise about the quality.

While I won’t be opening the cart for now, we can use the transparent plastic to our advantage. Here you can see how clean everything is, though just ignore the dust bit at the top. The PCB seems to be standard MD size, and there doesn’t seem to be anything extra, unlike 8Bit Music Power. Columbus Circle did improve their PCB design right after all the negative feedback after this. I’m betting they’re using flash memory to store the ROM, but unlike with the Chinese Battle Mania knock-off, this seems to utilise a full-sized PCB, similar to 8Bit Music Power FINAL. Columbus Circle has released a music title on the Mega Drive previously, one which I’ll probably pick up at a later date for comparison how this release compares to it. That smoke colour really comes to through nicely against light though.

The manual, however, does let you down a bit. Not much, but enough.

The manual’s printed on a good matte paper. This is seems to be clear cut difference between people who haven’t done project like this and those who have; experienced people use matte paper most of the time. If glossy paper is present, its used for an effect and even then the nature of the paper is selected carefully. Saying glossy and matte don’t really tell anything on themselves, but opening the can between paper qualities would take a whole blog in itself. That matter aside, the manual uses the new boxart slightly cropped, which is a good choice. You can reverse the cover sleeve to the original boxart while still keeping the new style look at hand. The rest though?

This one page really should tell it all. On one hand, the print quality is pretty good, nothing short of original Mega Drive runs. However, the characters on the left seem too dark. It is very likely that Columbus Circle had to resort to scanning the original manual rather than gain access to the original materials. This either means the original manual was this dark as well, the printing colours were off, or that something happened between scanning and printing. This seeming darker-than-intended issue of course is on every page, colours saturated and all. However, because most lines and text are sharp, I can’t help but this is was the original result. You can also see that the grid is not exactly straight, but if we’re completely honest, the grid like this is never completely straight. Neverthless, the manual feels off to drop a point off from the whole package.

Nevertheless, compared to the original Mega Drive games and packaging, this run of Gley Lancer is up to relative standards. There are some spots that should be improved, especially when an official license is in play, but this is far above any Chinese knock-off. Chinese can produce good stuff, as long as you put the money and skill in the production. Practically all repros and releases like this are made in China anyway, its just a question of picking the proper subcontractor to work with and all that. I would still recommend this release of Gley Lancer if you want to play games on your Mega Drive, as it is a complete, official package.

However, I would raise a question whether or not this should supersede the original release, if you had the possibility to choose one or the either. Perhaps it is because there is no license from Sega, or just to differentiate this release from the original, it is 2019 run of Gley Lancer and this will rub some people the wrong way.

Differences include the MD logo, genre classification icons, different Mega Drive text at the top, different cartridge materials and label. We can understand the lack of any Sega related logos and materials, but why change the cartridge label? Perhaps to unify the look of the packaging, to make the overall package look the same across the board. It an be argued that Columbus Circle should’ve stuck replicating the original release as much as possible, but at the same time this could’ve lead some people trying to sell the re-release as original release. An issue these releases always will have is the compatibility with original hardware. While I am a proponent of using modern PCBs and methods to deliver older games in more efficient manner, we’ve seen how haphazard it come become, like it did with 8bit Music Power. However, as said, these issues have been seemingly fixed, and the current method of making reproduction cartridges seems to be solid and without any real hitches. The game also lacks any reference to Sega when it boots up and has the updated Masaya logo alongside Columbus Circle’s own right after. Of course, because Nippon Computer System wasn’t involved in this release, extreme has replaced them in the credits. However, the game code and how it plays is still the same. Here’s a full playthrough of the game with a Mega Drive with sound modified for your enjoyment.

The image quality is much sharper than Columbus Circle’s own trailer, as Framemeister is still the best option to run old systems on modern televisions

Because of all the changes to the packaging and changes in credits, some will consider this as a good knock-off or a repro. Some will consider this release weaker for the same reason and the lower level of quality control. However, when put into context, a small independent circle re-releasing a cult-classic under official license from extreme and Masaya. While it is regrettable that few issues keep this from being an absolutely stellar release, the fact that this wasn’t their first MD release, and Columbus Circle is intending to publish more, they need to tighten up on quality control once more to achieve the same level of quality as original game releases. Neverthless, if you’d like to own a copy of Gley Lancer and can’t spot an original copy or don’t want to spend the money, I would recommend this re-release warmly despite its shortcomings.

 

Complexity and difficulty do not deter sales

Continuing from last week’s ex tempore Guilty Gear post, the concept of making something more accessible in video games should be looked at a bit closer. The myth is very clear cut; make a game’s play less demanding in order to attract consumers. For long running franchises, there already exists an installed consumer base, changing a series’ latest entry to be less whole than its predecessor usually isn’t met with the most positive reception. Fighting games are interesting in this regard, because they exhibit series-within-series mentality. All five mainline Street Fighter games series have their own unique approach to the core mechanics introduced in Street Fighter. Street Fighter II expanded on the cast and introduced combos by accident. Later Street Fighter II games would introduce speed modification, new input methods and the industry standard Super moves. Street Fighter III revamped the whole pace of the game and made Parrying an essential part of the game. Third Strike landed Ex Moves into the series, which have become more or less franchise standard. Street Fighter IV modified Super concept a bit more with Revenge Gauge as well as introducing Focus Attacks and Red Focus Attack would be introduced later. Street Fighter V is a platform for each and every update for the game. This sort of tweaking applies to Guilty Gear as well, where most of the sub-titled game outside the first game have iterative versions. X has X+, XX has its fair share of update to the point of some arguing Accent Core should be considered a sub-series on its own rights. Xrd of course had Sign first before Revelator, and then Rev.2 came around. With New Guilty Gear, we should expect them to take a step back toward the original game, as that’s the standard procedure with both Capcom and ArcSys, and build up from there. However, every time a developer announced they want their game to attract new customers, or that they want certain customer crowd, red flags are raised. However, not for the reason you’d think.

Games have always been complex and stupidly hard. Dark Souls is not any exception to the rule, but it the series is perhaps the best example of a game that mainstream has taken under its wing despite it being brutally difficult, requiring relatively high execution due to its relatively complex mechanics. Dark Souls is just modern equivalent of the NES era Castlevania anyhow. Both are based on Western horror and both are deemed brutally hard games. Both are very successful franchises. The NES era is very good example of games becoming more complex and the same time gaining more popularity and seeing increase sales. Castlevania is of course example of this, but so would Super Mario Bros. By modern standards the first game is archaic, extremely basic. When it first rolled out, it was one of the most technologically advanced game on consoles, the game to define cartridge games before Nintendo rolled out Disk System. We know how that went down. Super Mario Bros. 2 made more characters available with different properties, much longer stages with numerous tricks to them, and more demanding game overall. It may not be Lost Levels, but Lost Levels is just an update for the first game with new enemies and no mechanical changes. Super Mario Bros. 3 on the other hand wiped the slate clean with more demanding stages, more complexity with flying, more mechanics to play with new suits and options, stage gimmicks and so on. If complexity and difficulty would deter the customer, none of these aforementioned series would’ve been successful.

Modern video and computer game developers should look at the arcades’ success to learn a thing or two. Arcade games were often butt puckeringly difficult in order to make their earnings, but with that they also were required to deliver excellent burst of gameplay. Cabinets that didn’t were quickly empty, with customers slotting their quarters into something more worthwhile. The games needed to attract the customers first, and that’s why the cabinet design had to be excellent, eye-catching and sometimes extremely wild. The attract mode was integral to this, which either was pretty damn good or rather terrible. There was no real in-between. The standard was to start with some sort of video sequence that sets up the setting for the game, showcasing some of the characters before the title screen hits, often with a bang. After that it would move to gameplay, which would be either AI playing the game either via game’s own instructions or prerecorded inputs, or just have the player character being dumb and taking hits before dying. Show some scores from other players, maybe splash the title screen once more than then loop the whole thing, until a player throws a coin in. Later in the 1990’s, these attract modes would find themselves very sophisticated, like how Choukou Senki Kikaioh presented itself as an opening animation for a Saturday morning cartoon.

I’d also recommend checking out Konami’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade gamesattract modes.

Presentation is all-important with games still. That is the first thing the consumer will see, from advertisement to in-game graphics. Graphical fidelity in itself is not as important as how those graphics are represented. ArcSys has always been able to pull this off, devising visual flavour that pulls in the audience. The main reason original Guilty Gear is a footnote in the series, and in fighting game history overall, is that it was just another game among others in a time when 2D fighting games were pushed away in favour of 3D. It didn’t make its mark because of being difficult or too complex, Tekken had more on it than Guilty Gear. Third Strike: Street Fighter III hit the scene years later, and you can guess which one of the two are is more complex and more played nowadays. Of course, SFIII wasn’t exactly a mass hit during that time either, but that was the era when arcades were dying. That, and SFIII a totally new cast that rubbed SFII fans the wrong way. Very few companies would be willing to completely replace their game’s cast nowadays, though SFIII‘s unique cast has been accepted retroactively as worthy successors and the initial reaction is seen rather overly drastic. Visuals is what the player will be looking at all the time, and if they’re up to par in terms of design and sheer quality of ’em, the game has to pull double duty on making the entry worthwhile.

That is only the start though, an ever-important one. Once you’ve gotten the customer’s attention, the best way is to engage the him to full possible extent with well designed and coded play. The answer to rope in new players is not in making game easier to play, that is the wrong way to make a game more accessible. Easy to learn, hard to master is the mantra of every great game out there, not just electronic. The best card games are easy to understand and learn, but stupidly hard to master due to other elements. Poker, for example, is simple enough to teach to a three-years old, but everything else calculating odds to reading other players takes time and effort. This isn’t an argument for people to get good at a game, but rather that by allowing the player to naturally learn what does what should be the priority rather than automate things. Automation and cutscenes take away control from the player, and though it helps early on and may give a cinematic effect, it should always be an option to remove automation once the player has learned enough. Autocombos as an element try to alleviate the execution barrier in fighting games, and while they do work as a first step helper, it should always be optional and the game should make an effort to encourage the player to abandon it rather than give them a safe tool they can roll with all the time. Its not a rare mindset to use the tool that’s the easiest and safest because it just works. Repeat it again and again until desired result is gained. The incentive of more damage with better combos doesn’t really sound appealing to general player if such tool exists.

Give a controller to a complete newcomer to fighting games and tell them what the buttons do, and then do things. They’ll be in complete awe what’s going on. There has been much discussion on mechanic complexity, but less so about inputs. Sure, methods of inputs is a big topic, pad vs stick and so on, but less so if there are too many single inputs. What I mean by this that, for example, Street Fighter has six buttons. Three for punches, three for kicks. King of Fighters has four, two punches and two kicks. Tekken has four, one for each limb. Melty Blood runs four as well, but with three attacks and a special. Virtua Fighter has three; punch, kick, guard. Which one of these would you say would make a newcomer most confident? Then consider which of these franchises has seen most revenue. Number of inputs is related to complex execution. More ways to input stuff, the more motor skills are required. Add the mechanics to this, and it becomes easy to see why some would argue lessening complexity is the way to go. Nothing keeps you from using all the buttons on the controller, but at the same time nothing says you should. All that said, the core fighting game design with the system starts with how many buttons there are. It might look intimidating to a complete novice who has never played a game, but this is something no game can really deal with. A player must start somewhere to work over the complex controllers, but a well designed game wins the player over with good design.

Not even kidding. Back when I was studying psychology and used games to run experiments, few of them were so completely bewildered by a SNES controller they might as well have used this

However, this design is hard to implement into a fighting game. The reason for this is that fighting games are pure one-screen games. There are no stages that the developer could design around for the player to intuitively learn controls and mechanics, like they can with Super Mario Bros. There are no attract modes anymore to show how the game flows. All you really can do is hit the Training mode and hope for the best. With the Internet, this shouldn’t be the case anymore. People learned how to play Street Fighter II by being there in the arcades, playing games with others and tradings tips and tricks. That wholesome interaction may be gone now, but online play could help. Have people play few matches against the CPU to measure how good they are and then throw them into online matches with equally ranked opponents. This doesn’t seem to be happening though. Often what seems to happen is that you just keep losing to people online and have to learn about things before you can match others.

The thing is that this happens with everything. You don’t get good at reading before you learn the alphabets and how language works. You don’t learn to drive right away. You don’t learn to draw a straight line until you’ve done it thousands of times. Playing soccer takes ages to get good. Building and painting model kits takes years to learn. Even something like Pokémon Go demands you to drag your ass out there to spin those stops and join the raids for the best Legendaries out there. This is not an issue of getting good at a game, though it does bloody sound like it. The issue is of genre. Fighting games, despite being one of the most readily accessible genre out there, is all about having that crazy shit happen on screen, but as always it should be the crazy shit the player is doing, not the game. Games are about user action, and the less user action there is, the less play a game has. While this post largely equates play with mechanics, the two are inseparable aspects. Fighting games are interesting in that everything is laid out right away in terms of mechanics and they’re easy to do. Making use of them, that’s something that can only come from repeated play. Call it a detriment of the genre or whatever else, but you can only really prepare for a match in a fighting game is to play the game. With RPGs you can get your noggin jogging and consider things in terms of elemental weaknesses and the like. While you can use this in fighting games with rock-paper-scissors elements, timing them right still takes some experience. With a game like Final Fantasy, the issue of getting good at the game is in understanding the mechanics, not really being able to execute them with some motor skill fidelity. Lowering the mechanics skill ceiling might sound attractive, yet it will lead with into more experienced players dominating over newcomers that much more. While Darkstalkers 3 is technically and mechanically very demanding game, it is an example of a game where you medium skill players are very rare. You’ll either be in less skilled floor, or someone who has spend years with the game and have broken through the ceiling. There really is no middle ground, and that probably will be the end result if a fighting game series decides to downgrade its play mechanics.

Holding on to your current consumer base is easier than making a new one. While as a creator it may seem dreadful to tweak an existing formula again and again, that is partially expected from a sequel. Street Fighter does break this mentality, but only if you go by number-by-number rather than iteration-by-iteration. Consumers expect a new numbered Street Fighter to mix things to some extend outside its core basics, but this is not the case with Guilty Gear. XX and Xrd set the expectation that while system tweaks and additions are to be expected, no major or drastic approach would be done in of themselves. The brand expectation for Guilty Gear is what it is, a high-speed fighting game with expansive and complex mechanics that support offensive play the most. Things like Burst, Instant Kills, Gatling Combos, Dust Attacks and the sheer way the games have played have become more or less as part of the core expectations because ArcSys has never given the series a significant system change after GGX. New Guilty Gear will most likely aim to cater with these ideas, but it as a game will have brand confusion. There have been different Guilty Gear experiences before, as Ishiwatari put it, with all the spin-off titles. It would serve the franchise better if the core fighting game line would continue as per standard, catering to both Red Ocean and shallow Blue Ocean customers, all the while the franchise would see a new spin-off that would give it a completely new spin. There is more room for Guilty Gear titles that do something different with the same core basics. From business perspective, you’d keep the interest of your current consumers with a new sub-title to the series all the while still catering to them with the core series, but also attracting newcomers with something they could get into.

Guilty Gear 2 is still a thing, and it changed the genre. ArcSys could do more things like this

It still bogs down to the content, not mechanics’ complexity. You have to have something to nab to consumer in with presentation, you have to have good play to keep the player interested and entertained so he is willing to spend more time, and what he spends his time on is content. When the player consumes a game’s content, he naturally learns the ropes. However, if the content is lacking doesn’t keep interest high. This is why Street Fighter V is a weird case study, as it discarded the idea of iteration in favour of constant content updates. Content for a fighting game would be characters and the various modes, though the main mean would always be the fighting itself. Xrd‘s movie story mode is an excellent example of utterly trash content for a game, whereas previous entries’ multiple paths storymode based on matches and player decisions in those matches is a great example. It keeps the player more engaged, and it gives him motivation to keep playing in order to see all the characters’ story paths. For 25 characters that would mean 50 different endings to unlock. Good online keeps all players along the ride too for some time, but there needs to be content. Marvel VS Capcom: Infinite failed at presentation the very moment trailers hit the scene. The mechanics were great and gameplay had autocombos too, but there was no content people were looking for. On the opposite, Marvel VS Capcom 3 had more complex controls than its predecessor, Tatsunoko Vs Capcom, but obviously had more content that interested general audiences more outside Japan. It should not surprise that it saw more play by all and higher sales.

Video games are stupidly large entertainment industry now, but the true and tested way to expand to the Blue Ocean market still applies; disrupt the market with a new quality product that hits the current paradigm. A revamped Guilty Gear might be this product for sure, but only if it truly is able to pull off everything right. In other words, it would need to be the same kind of title as Street Fighter II was to previous fighting games. Its branding alone drags it down. It would serve ArcSys better if they’d launch a new, high-caliber series with the same energy, with the same effort and the same enthusiasm. They are playing with a marketing grenade in their hands at the moment. ArcSys could pull it off, but chances are consumer expectations are against them harder than Ishiwatari thinks.

Possessive fans

I’m sure everyone of you have had this experience yourself, or act it out yourself sometimes; someone really likes a something, be it a comic, movie, a restaurant or even just a candy bar, and this person really doesn’t want others to get into it. He wants to keep to himself and keep the masses or normies, whatever the buzzword is today, out. This is petty at best and does not serve whatever it is being liked. The creator sees less success and has to consider whether or not it is worth to continue on this lane of production/existence, if it would be more worth to take things to a different direction that might change things around enough to turn the thing into something completely different. Every fan knows that to ensure their loved thing will see further success means money and exposure. That means each fan has to become a sort of piggybank, a paywhale for this little thing in order to keep it afloat and make sure the provider knows this, that he will continue to cater to him and his closest circle. The other option is to allow everyone else to throw money at this thing and have it exposed to the wider world world.

There are arguments made every which way regarding this sort of thing. Some argue that the fandom changes for the worse when more people get into this thing, that there’s a cycle that not only degrades the fandom, but also the product itself when it has to cater to more people. Warhammer 40 000 is probably a decent example of this. The perception in the mid-1990’s was that only fat, smelly nerds who have an awkward social life at best who never left their parent’s basement painted these itty bitty figures and then went to dedicated store basements that smelled like rotten cheese and boiling sweat for hours long sessions to play with their toys. Nowadays WH40k has become entertainment for the masses via Black Library books that tell the canonical story set in the game’s universe with the tabletop game itself enjoying more newcomers as well.

Comics of course are another example, which some would argue showcases how a great product can change and turn to absolute mess. While I would fully agree that both Marvel and Dc have gotten rotten at their core, I don’t agree that it is because of expanded audience. Just the opposite; Marvel and DC comics used to be mass entertainment in the US when they were sold in your normal groceries stores alongside Archie and such. The quality downfall of the Big Two was effectively when they begun to cater to a smaller audience that kept getting smaller with time. The sales the Big Two make now would get their books axed and the modern sales can only envy the numbers of past. It is not an exaggeration to say that when comics where entertainment for everyone, they were at their best. When they begun to cater to a smaller audience, and now even to smaller audience that doesn’t even really buy the books. Just look at the female Thor storyline Marvel put out in 2016. Its sales dropped more than 50 percent after the first issue. Even the long-time core customers didn’t want to buy that trash, and the people it catered to don’t buy comics. It is a common secret that comic book movies were the best thing currently since the first Iron Man movie. Were is the keyword, as it would seem that Disney is taking the same direction as with the comics.

There is also an argument for intrinsic value. The less people know and consume a product, the more intrinsic value it is perceived to have. The value is high when the audience is niche. The product’s perceived value drops the more people get into it and the more exposure there is. You’d think this some sort of stupid illogical reason, and you’d be partially right. It is an emotional reaction of course. Some people hoard stuff to keep it to themselves as that supposedly increases the value. To some degree this does apply to single items, but this feeling of value is very easily extended to emotional connections and how exposed something is. This is somewhat a basis for the stereotypical hipster culture culture, where you have people acting strange for the sake of being different, getting into obscure stuff that nobody else knows for the sake of standing out and at least claiming to value the piece.. The don’t really want their strange and unique things go mainstream, because then they’d be mainstream and not strange and unique. Funnily enough, while yours truly has been claimed to act like a hipster, I do pretty much the exact opposite; here’s this strange and obscure shit, like it so it might get more exposure and maybe more fans. I just don’t like being in a community of something myself.

What is interesting about this whole thing is that this ties to the argument Popularity is not the measure of quality. I bet most of you have been a fan of something small that blew up, with the object of fandom staying the same, but the old fans nevertheless left. This ties to the above, but also to the perception that anything that is largely popular could never be of high quality. Of course this can, and often should, be turned around that success is a measure of quality. Ultimately, it is rather absurd to argue that the masses know nothing of high quality or that only a smaller group would know about a greater value something holds. Entertainment has skewed itself to cater in certain way, always has really, and people often forget that even original ideas, small providers and something that are made with a passion, in the end aim to make some money. Nobody makes a production in hopes of losing money for the sake of making the product, unless they already have shitloads of money in the bank to burn. That’s why most trophy projects end up in the trashbin of quality, because they’re made only to attract the preferences of one.

Of course, some people just want to enjoy their preferred thing alone without much others getting in. The question really ends up being with this; why concern yourself with others? Do we really as a species need to dick measure everything and call out others on stuff they find value in? It would seem so, as opinions are really the only things we can argue over, and people will always argue, bitch and moan what people do or what they like, even when there’s zero impact on themselves. Alternatively, we could try see all sides and consider why the things we like are absolute garbage, while the things we dislike and others prefer are worth the time and effort.

New Guilty Gear and the expanded audience

Remember last year when I wrote a post about how complex mechanics were the appeal of Guilty Gear? Can’t really blame you, neither did the co-author on this site. With the that teaser trailer making some big hits and getting an overall positive reception, the fact is that it shows jack shit worth anything. We don’t really see anything outside few interesting tidbits like stage hazard transition. The teaser trailer, in itself, is nothing but proof of concept teaser, showcasing new designs, probable system additions and tweaks and such. As always, these things never represent the final product and getting your ass hyped doesn’t serve anyone. But hey, if you did get hyped and felt pumped, even a little bit, that’s the emotional connection with the brand working for you.

However, now we do have some information going on, and combining that information with the presentation of the teaser, we can pretty much say that Ishiwatari continues with his long lasting intentions to expand audience. In 2011 Ishiwatari, the man running the franchise, mentioned that Guilty Gear has become too hardcore for some people. Some people meaning to people who weren’t playing it. The people who weren’t the core audience or into fighting games overall. That the fans of the series are too old to pay games anymore. Ishiwatari has a history is misunderstanding his own franchise and its consumer base, with almost every iteration since Accent Core Plus getting first bad rap from the fans. Xrd was heavily criticised for dumbing down things. Timing became looser, Blitz Shield was added, something I’ve honestly never seen people use outside accidents and very few special cases and so forth. 3D seems to have the effect that the game plays slower, the same thing happened with King of Fighters XIV getting the same rap despite having the same game and movement speed. There’s something about 3D that just makes things look a bit dumb. 2D sprites snapping into animation looks natural, but 3D is expected to be smooth. I guess Ishiwatari agreed with New Guilty Gear and opted to use terrible motion smoothening effects to accentuate the action.

Also note in that 2011 article how Toshimichi Mori, the designer of BlazBlue, criticises Street Fighter IV 3DS Edition for implementing touch-screen special moves, and now autocombos and easy moves have genre standard for the worse.

I want to quote Ishiwatari from 2018 regarding his intentions on the next Guilty Gear right after Dragon Ball FighterZ was thrown out; “One thing that we have to do in the next installment is to reduce the number of systems [mechanics]; it’s too complicated for everyone. You can expect that in the next game.” New Guilty Gear won’t be just a new Guilty Gear entry. If ArcSys and Ishiwatari had the intentions of keeping Guilty Gear rolling like it previously has, we’d know the full title of the game now. Back when GGXrd -SIGN- was announced in 2013, the trailer didn’t back off from showing the full title. Now, what we get is subpar quality and no full title. We know that this game has been in development for some time in different stages, and what we were shown is more or less the first results of ArcSys tweaking the formula. However, with Ishiwatari saying that New Guilty Gear will be about breaking the series’ into its core elements, to the pieces that make the franchise unique. Complexity, timing, high execution with equally high risk-and-reward with forced focus on offensive gameplay even with characters designed with defensive move sets. Fun fact; ArcSys already had a brand new Guilty Gear experience with Guilty Gear 2 and that pachislot game, both of which were rather mediocre. Isuka counts too, I’d say.

All that said, New Guilty Gear is probably going to be what Xrd already moved towards, what Dragon Ball FighterZ ended up being, and what Ishiwatari has been talking about almost a decade now; a nerfed fighting game, or as some people like to call it, a spectacle fighter. A fighting game that is more concerned about the cool look and effects outside the game’s core play. Stage transitions are these in effect. Sure, its nice to see things like that, but the question is at what cost. Ky’s hair falling open and music changing to Holy Orders III, that’s attention to detail, that’s flavour and flash. A spectacle is what modern games do all the time with Super moves, with long stop-time, zoom in, effects, move, then reset and with time it has gotten worse and worse. A spectacle is when the game’s core design is intended to show cool shit from the get go and hype you up, but is all about doing that rather than giving you tools to reach do those yourself. Street Fighter V gave Ryu an easy parry that everyone could do Daigo Parry themselves stupidly easily for the sake to replicate that moment. Dragon Ball FighterZ is all about the spectacle, and the game suffers from every single way. A spectacle fighter demands the game’s systems to be nerfed in order to favour all the showy bits.

Fighting game accessibility is a modern myth. You can not expand audience by taking two decades worth of game genre evolution to the trash. Modern fighting games have taken direction of lessening mechanics and taking player options out. You have to think and worry about things less and less. This does not work and has never worked. No fighting game in the genre’s history has managed to expand its audience through nerfing it down. All it leads to is the long-time players having easier time against new players, which causes the exact opposite effect, and the old players will end up calling the company out for intentionally failing to deliver a high-caliber game. For years now Ishiwatari has been saying negative things about Guilty Gear the long-time fans have loved. The complex mechanics are not, have never been, a problem with new players. Funny enough, mechanics are not a seller either. Look at the latest Smash Bros. and how it changed its mechanics toward more competitive nature. What made it sell like hotcakes was that it had every single character in the game and the most stages in a fighting game ever. Want a reverse example? Marvel VS Capcom: Infinite had excellent mechanics in the end, probably one of the best entries in the series, but its presentation was absolutely dogshit and its roster was woefully lacking. Its content was against consumer expectations and wants.

Was I wrong then to claim that complex mechanics are the appeal of Guilty Gear and that its the spectacle that sells? Consider the above, Guilty Gear is extremely appealing to people who have been playing fighting games for a long time, people who understand what the hell is going on and how to understand the play. Guilty Gear made its mark during an era when Capcom ceased producing fighting games, SNK was in the rut and there was effectively no competitors. It was a niche franchise still, because nobody knew who Sol Badguy or why there was a nun fighting with a yo-yo. Xrd’s main impact came from its legacy and core fans, but also because its presentation, music and the whole presentation won general audience over. When you play a Guilty Gear title, those complex mechanics come together in a very satisfying manner. It feels good to pull off a simple Gatling Combo, it feels great to run and dash, it feels good to Burst your opponent properly, it feel good to Dust somebody in the air and do a combo, it feels good to Roman Cancel to reset a combo and its absolutely great to use all the mechanics and options you have there. Content, presentation and complex mechanics that make the game feel great are ingredients for a great fighting game. The new Samurai Showdown is a great example of this; a game with absolutely pristine presentation, a great cast of characters and yet the mechanics are hardcore 1990’s high-octane adrenaline pumping complex that extremely satisfying. You just have to let the player to do all that themselves, the end goal that the mechanics serve. Not give automated options, not nerf how the game plays. Xbox One may not have many games to attract consumers per se, but Killer Instinct absolutely nailed how to make the initial entry easy and fun, and everything after was all about having absolute blast, the hype the game’s play causes. You won’t win audience over if the mechanics don’t allow all that, if it is just the same thing over and over, like with Street Fighter V. SFV is an eSport title, and how it looks, the spectacle it gives, ultimately drove it more than making it a great fighting game.

If I’m right in assessing the history of ArcSys’ developments and Ishiwatari’s statements and attitudes, New Guilty Gear will be more like Dragon Ball FighterZ and Granblue Fantasy: Versus rather than Guilty Gear XX. Rein the hype, wait and see what happens.To tell you my honest to God thoughts, Guilty Gear never came back with Xrd. What we have been playing since 2013 has been a facsimile of Guilty Gear. God this post probably reads like an incoherent ramble.

Another Epic PR disaster

When the Epic Game Store came around the first time, I considered it an addition to the whole economy of digital games stores. There’s always more room to challenge Valve, GOG and the rest as long as the service is right, the price it tight and products stand out. The last bit Epic has been working on overtime, but not the way most consumers would want. Its not that Epic has put studios to work for unique games, but they’ve been doshing dough around like no other, picking up games off from developers from Patreon, Kickstarted products and such. Kickstarted products is the sore point, as many were promised either physical PC release or a Steam key, but with Epic bringing its bang to the table, these promises turn empty and they’re given Epic codes instead. While Kickstarter is not a store and changes are always going to happen, keeping tight on your delivered products. When things are like this, you need some good PR management skills to handle the situation. Ok, let’s be realistic; you need someone with excellent PR skill and background to manage the consumers and dampen all the possible damage. You never go in head first yourself, because you don’t have the skills or knowhow. You’d be an idiot to assume that consumers of any sort are a kind bunch. Outside already promised products e.g. via Kickstarter changing their form and direction, in principle there’s nothing wrong in Epic’s way of making exclusives. Personal opinion doesn’t exactly matter, when the majority has made their negative view on the platform rather vocal.

Consider why each and every successful corporation, company or individual businessman has a front while everything happens behind the curtains. That is to keep the consumer at an arm’s length away to keep some details behind the curtain while having proper discourse with the customer.

You probably already know ins and outs how Ben and his wife Rebecca have been working on a game titled Ooblets and how it became a timed-exclusive for Epic Store. I didn’t know about them two days ago, and apparently not many others had either. Still, Ben doesn’t mention his last name or sign with full title, so I’m going to call him just Ben, uncharacteristically. Sorry Benjamin, don’t mean to mix you with this Ben. After Ben announced the situation, he and his wife got some heavy backlash, which should have been completely expected considering how negative reception Epic has. Of course, being Ben he went on to Medium and wrote a long response. Archived version for your pleasure. We’re mostly going to concentrate on this, but you can jump on their Discord if you want to read how easily Ben is willing to take a shot at people for whatever reason. OneAngryGamer has some of them archived, just like his article is.

It really is largely trite to read through, as anyone who have followed any standard events regarding production of games from the start within the indie scene should know, especially the title has been Kickstarted. Most interaction with fans is positive, until you fuck up somehow. When you fuck up, that brings in the rest of your silent backers and other potential customers in like a lightning rod. Ben describes how their style has been jolly and non-serious all this time, which is the first error most of these independent creators do, because that means nobody can never really trust their info without analysing through the bullshit you’re spouting. Having a joke here or there to break the ice is great, but being tongue-in-cheek as your standard style of interaction is about as welcome as a rash on your ass. Sure its colourful and gives you attention, but in the end you want that clear and fresh feeling instead.

The Internet is nothing new when it comes to mad people. It is a misconception that the Internet brought us some sort of new era of hate messages or the like. No, hate mail has always existed. Before direct messaging and emails, people used letters published in news papers or sent directly to the provider, or simply calling by phone. The Internet just has democratised who and how they are able to voice their opinion. Ben listing some examples of people going over the board does show that there are people either genuinely mad, or that there are just people wanting to pitch in for good time’s sake. Neither really is constructive, but emotions tend to take over people very easily.

Ben makes clear that he doesn’t consider anyone a customer. He or his wife hasn’t sold anything to anyone, so there isn’t a provider-consumer relationship. He’d be wrong. The relationship that exists between the two and their audience is potential consumer base, which has effectively become their fanbase that they were nurturing. In the face of law this is the case, he can argue that. However, considering he team has a Patreon that is directly about funding the game. Still, they don’t offer any of the game there, just some merch when they begin to produce it. Maybe.

However, when you have a fanbase and interact with and constantly update them on your progress, you have a group of people you have cultivated as your main consumer base. There is a certain silent agreement between you and this group of people about a transaction and this has been going on for three years. If Ben thought for a moment that there wasn’t meta-transaction on an emotional level going on, he has been sorely mistaken. He can call people entitled all he wants or whatnot, but do remember that when you are promising a product to fans, and have given your word (despite this not being a binding contract), you’ve already made emotional connections and managed to tie the future consumer of your future product to your brand. That tongue-in-cheek nature nature of messages and updates is an element that backfires twice as worse in situation like these, as that tone is often seen as facetious and deceptive. At best it’ll be regarded as condescending, though often that’s the underlying tone. There has been implied promises going on for three years. Morally speaking, Ben and his wife do owe to these people. Furthermore, they owe their very current monetary situation and success to their fans and especially to their patrons.

Ben admits he has a PR disaster in his hands. Yet he blames this on a portion of gaming community rather than acknowledging  his own fuck-up. His business sense overrode the work he had done with his PR, where Epic’s offer for a timed-exclusive seemed a better option over long-term positive feedback. Even my sorry ass has heard enough tales of consumers and fans getting riled up over developers and publishers being swayed by Epic’s bucks. Any and all devs at this very moment should ask themselves Is my fame more worth than the money I’m currently offered? Hell, I’ll even argue that if a dev now would make a bold announcement that they have rejected Epic’s offer for exclusivity in favour if fans’ and consumers’ preference in a proper way, they’d be hailed, in words of an Australian, as fucking heroes.

If you screw your PR like this and make widely unpopular move all the while taking a good shit on people who could have been customers, then still proceed to take numerous dumps on people, belittling people, don’t go cry over a massive backlash. While regrettable, it is also the harsh truth of business and maintaining your image. Ben’s and Rebecca’s first ride on the PR train and it getting off the tracks was, ultimately, their own doing. A reaction always requires something to start it going. Just to make sure, I didn’t say they deserve getting the worst of the rap that’s raining on them, but they are the source of this reaction, which could have been mostly avoided. Not the way Ben and his folks were maintaining their interactions though.

This whole deal shows basic lack of consumer research and expectations evaluation. Both PC and console consumers have been vocal about Epic’s misgivings and even more about how the developers and publishers seem to have lost all contact with the people who buy their stuff. I shouldn’t underline the bottom line with this repetition, but as a provider, albeit as one who has not yet delivered one product, everything hangs on the people who are willing give you money. Now, with their decision to handle things like this, not practicing good sense and proper manners when interacting with audience and not clowning around, they’ll probably see less success and a very tarnished reputation. That’ll take some polishing to fix.

Providers aren’t your friend. They’re in the field to get paid. Directly interacting with them won’t change this, no matter what sort of relationship and emotional connection you have with them.

Music of the Month; ななこSOS

Time to let out some steam. Month’s first post is, after all, a chance for random ramblings.

Unsurprisingly, due last week’s subject with sadpanda and the historical context of lolita complex in Japanese media history, few people asked if I had certain preferences, to put it diplomatically. Perhaps in the classical sense of having some infatuation with a cute character, but that’s more or less normal. People fall in love with inanimate objects almost as easily as they do in real people, or if life has shown that people are untrustworthy, the opposite seems to hold. In the modern, twisted sense? No. Then why would I spend any time on the subject than what I already have? It is solely historical interest. You know that one image macros, the one which shows how manly Japanese cartoons used to be, how adult and serious, and the Now shows nothing but cute stuff and shows with comparatively vapid content. Despite that image being a joke, it did launch an interest how true it really was. Reading history bit by bit via firsthand sources and consuming the media itself.

From someone who used to read history as a hobby, looking back at how consuming the media of old rather than just reading about it. Media can always be consumed, but events themselves can never be. However, much like when you’ve read enough history from multiple points of views, you begin to understand how everything tends to affects something, how events proceed from one to another. The similar effects can be said about media culture, where if you consume enough media of certain region, not just one kind but all kinds, you realise how much everything has worked in symbiosis, how cultural and historical trends in the media has raised its influential head here and there. It just has to be from relatively long period of time and understand the underlying trends. For example, just looking at the 1980’s anime scene with its OVAs and groundbreaking television shows is hard to understand without first without first looking at massive sub-cultural phenomena in the 1970’s like Captain Harlock, Mobile Suit Gundam and Urusei Yatsura. Those are major names, but only selected few with direct influences with 1980’s scene. Of course, the whole lolita complex, or culture of cute, should be taken into account as it was everywhere. If you go few posts back, I cover this a bit more there. Though I have raised myself a question that I have to find an answer to; where does Japan’s lolita complex, moe and culture of cute have original roots in? This requires some investigating.

To tell you the truth, I have been wanting to discuss this matter on the blog for a long, long time. However, due to difficulty and touchy nature of the subject due to its modern connotations, I have simply pushed it back and back again. I’ve talked about Comic Lemon People and series within in a lot, but never directly addressed it simply because there was never really a good angle to approach it with, and it seemed like time has made it ever touchier. However, Exhentai’s death (and rebirth) gave the perfect angle with archiving and its historical value, an angle I’ll probably stick with in the future when and if talking about the subject. On a side note, the alternative music just to continue with theme would’ve been this song.

In other news, Muv-Luv photonfloers* got released on Steam, so if you’re inclined to continue reading Muv-Luv related media in English, you might want to check it out. It is currently in sale at ~20 bucks, which isn’t a bad price overall when compared to the hundred bucks plus I paid for the PS3 limited edition. photonmelodies♮ is currently at works, and while we could discuss whether or not it was the right choice to call Before the Shimmering Time Ends as Alterd Fable, I should make note that the fandom kept calling the story by the collection’s name almost a solid decade, and âge themselves ultimately adopted that moniker for it as well. While I will keep referring it as Before the Shimmering Time Ends for the sake of accuracy and Altered Fable will refer to the collection. This really is like taking just Muv-Luv Unlimited from Muv-Luv and call it Muv-Luv. [5.8. Edit] I’ll be damned, the official title will be Altered Fable: A Shimmering Shard of Spacetime. I can live with that, and it caters to both people who simply use Altered Fable and autistic nitpickers like me. Sure, it may not be a direct translation, but keeps the original’s spirit with it as the first direct continuation to Final Extra.

Seeing this is port of the PS3 titles, I’d also urge you to get your hands on the original PC release to experience the minigames in their full, bloody glory as well as have the erotica included. I do still erotica in Muv-Luv to be relatively essential to characterisation and showing humane bonding between characters, but your taste probably varies and many VN enthusiasts would rather push a pillow in porn’s face. Then again, VNs themselves are a media slowly withering into a smaller and smaller niche with each passing year, so perhaps it doesn’t do all that well to forget one of the paramount aspects Japanese PC adventure gaming and Visual novels have carried with them. I’d hate to see a beloved media being reduced to mere pebbles, but the fandom could be proud that the things they love now has little to no smut. What a waste.

While I’m plugging titles with cute girls who get fucked, I might as well throw this Kickstarter in your face; Daily life with Konko, or as the devs decided to translate it, Your Waifu Foxgirl Konko. I’m not terrible keen on this translated title, as it tries too hard, almost trying to hit the Internet’s meme nerve. Why would I give a look at something like this? Truth to be told, I’d rather not say, but might as well; the Japanese version of the game helped get over few dark months earlier this year. While I won’t be getting into any details about that human relationship, having something that wasn’t cold and dead like the winter outside kept me floating. There’s a trial that run in a browser on there, though it does raise some issues with the translation. Teacher is left as Shisho, and whole stroking someone’s head isn’t really sexual, leaving the command as just Stroke does strike a bit hammy. The title really isn’t meant to be played hours on end, but little bit each day. Something to wind down a bit, let things slow down and your worries to fall out. The demo’s also lacking any music, and is far too short to give any proper idea how it works, but its something. It does pretty terrible works at depicting the actual gameplay really. Then again, don’t take my word for it. The Japanese fans funded Live2D version of the game on Campfire recently, with yours truly taking part in it as well via proxy, and Megamisoft didn’t just achieve its goal; they made five and half times as much money they aimed at. The Otaku crowd is crazy, sure. However, I do consider this title to be good therapy in the hectic lifestyle we have. Its good to stop, sit down, and a good cup of tea and pat a foxgirl’s head.

While I’m being straight with you, it wasn’t close that this post wasn’t made. Few days ago, I was more or less through with this. I intended to abandon the blog as is, but nevertheless came back to it. I’ll have to make some hard life choices pretty much right now, and most of it is about what I want to spend time on. Blogging takes surprisingly large amount of time, especially when I’m trying to follow multiple possibly interesting news and stories alongside what might happen with some franchises. It eats time, time that I could use for something else like being outside or practicing drawing. I have come to a point where blogging in itself doesn’t bring anything to the table anymore, unless I am to slightly change how I approach. Less commentary, news and popular culture discussion, more personal stuff and things surrounding them. Perhaps you’ve noticed that design comparisons and reviews have effectively stopped and that’s the reason; they just take so much time and are mentally exhausting. A Youtuber friend named Terry advised me to get a Patreon and see if that would give any reason to move forwards, but I haven’t made it public; I know it would yield no real funding to purchase a domain name or towards unique redesign of the and items to review. However, I’m not shutting that out from the equation, but I’d need a real reason to use it. As for the blog, I’ll still aim to continue for few more years despite the admitted drop in quality and content. Ten years isn’t far away at this point, and It’d be shame just to quite when a decade’s almost full.

By the time you’re reading this, my short vacation is over and I’ve returned to work. Sadly, I managed to get jack shit done during this time due to friends having their vacation at different times, so we had to juggle stuff a lot. Vacation seems to be busier and more hectic than work itself.

Iczer Robo: A Visual History

This is a part of series of posts relating to Fight! Iczer-1 franchise. Please see Robot related materials above for further content on the subject

The intention of this post is to cover main appearances of Iczer Robo and its main different versions and successors from the Fight! Iczer-1 franchise. This is not an exhaustive list of all appearances and images, but an overview on some notable ones. This post is heavy with images, so the click below for more.

Continue reading “Iczer Robo: A Visual History”

The death of history comes when nobody is there to remember it

The title might sound like a bullshit sentiment, and it kind of is. Mostly because that is a personal point of view as someone who was a history buff in his teens. With the Internet’s sub-cultures still reeling on the loss of sadpanda, and that site-wide mirror being more or less a confirmed hoax at this point, it really made me think back how little we value history and its artifacts. Are you saying bunch of porn counts as historical artifacts? Very much so, especially if its older than decade or so. While most people will get stuck on the whole porn issue and what sort of porn it might’ve been, the same people don’t seem to consider what sort of sociological statements those pictures were making. For example, the much discussed (for better or worse) lolicon has gone through numerous iterations since the movement surfaced in Japan in the 1970’s. You can see its effects everywhere in the media in completely standard and normal ways, like Captain Harlock having having Mayu as a level of plot device, one of the reasons why Harlock still protects Earth from its inner deceit and alien threats. While Harlock could have numerous reasons, a character like this was surely influenced by the pop-cultural scene of the time. Similar things can be found in many other works in the era, culminating with Cybele Vol.1 seeing its Comiket publishing in 1979, and probably pushing itself to the mainstream popular culture with Comic Lemon People first issue hitting the magazine stands for all to buy in 1982. This magazine had such impact that modern Japanese popular culture wouldn’t exist without it in its current form.

Think what you may, White Cybele has a very classy cover

Much like everything in history, things are complicated. It is disingenuous to say that it is sexual objectification of children, but that’s what many seem to go to first. What lolicon was in the 1970’s and 1980’s was effectively what people understand with modern moe; the use of cute, young characters within works. Discussion during these eras were about affection towards these characters, and their desires. That must be emphasized; characters. By definition, a real person does not step into the equation. The age range of these characters was not defined either, like it is nowadays. These characters could be almost anything, as long as the visual style represented the idea of these cute, somewhat innocent characters and their visuals. The culture of cute is a very much a large component here, and with the 1960’s and 1970’s producing a generation that grew up on modern cartoons and comics in post-World War II Japan, it was more or less natural growth in terms of cultural landscape. Within this cultural scape, a lolicon wasn’t someone who had predatory tendencies towards children or pedophilia in any form; it refers for a preference for a certain style and look of the character. In many ways, the term moe has superseded lolicon as it carries largely the same connotation of cute characters. The historical background is largely the same, and even the marketing is similar. The term is simply more politically correct, perhaps to distance itself from how people consider lolicon to be only porn. I should also mention shotacon, which is more associated with female fans; the admiration of similarly cute, beautiful young men and boys. However, this term too is nowadays marred with its sexual connotations.

To put emphasize again; what determines these in the 1970’s and 1980’s is aesthetics. Young, cute looking characters that are the object of fan affection. As you’ve probably surmised, the Western use for the term is very different and based on different historical and cultural background, and partially reliant on intentional misinterpretation.

This is all terrible condensed, and needs its own proper post before I even attempt to cover the best years of Comic Lemon People, but one thing should be clear to most of my readers; the above isn’t exactly what what the Global, especially the Western, consensus is on the topic. We are talking about one nation’s rather major movement in popular culture history, which has been marred needlessly. Without reading around, listening to the people from the era from that specific place, reading and listening to first and second hand sources, you might think that pedophilia and lolicon are the same thing. In fact, they vehemently different; they are both qualitatively and fundamentally two different things. Drawn picture is not the same thing as a real person, or a photo of a real person.

Let’s assume we have lost fan made works from the 1970’s and 1980’s from the Internet and we can’t obtain physical copies anymore. The people who lived during that era are now dead and we can’t have their recollection from the era nor is there any properly documented interviews from them. Without first hand accounts, we can only rely on accounts that might or might not be correct. Writers may have an agenda and paint the movement in black colours, demonizing it to hell and back. Some sources might not even be in the same language as the target topic, misunderstanding major elements. Works that use sources that intentionally colour history is not uncommon, as history is full of propaganda. Be it political, religious or whatever, any and all events in history has different sides seeing different things. It’s like people watching a die from six different sides; they all see a different number. What we need to do is view that die from all angles and understand them for the whole picture.

LUM IS OVER is probably the best example of cross-cut of numerous creators from 1987 collaborating around Lum, with over thirty individuals pouring their affection in pin-ups and illustrations

It is not a secret that lolicon had a sexual element to it, but frankly everything has. It simply has been blown out of its proper proportions, probably because how influential Comic Lemon People was in the mainstream. Nobody seems to consider the 1970’s boy and girl characters as a result of this movement in itself, unless somebody directly mentions that shotacon was named after Tetsujin #28‘s main character, and that show had its inception in the sixties. Despite Elpeo Ple is cited as Gundam‘s household loli character (after all, she was named after Comic Lemon People, Kikka Kobayashi already was around in the first series. Hell, even Fraw Bow counts despite the character’s older age, but she still maintains that cute charm around her compared to most other female characters in the show. Don’t forget that Lum of Urusei Yatsura is considered the first real anime and manga sex symbol, and she is very much part of the lolicon culture of its era. Aalt, she’s too old for that. No, she’s the perfect age, because remember; it is about aesthetics of cuteness. Cuteness and sexiness do no exclude each other, as much as certain cultures think otherwise. Lum’s roundness, alluring eyes and soft body was in many ways first of its kind, trailblazing path to modern shoujo and even styles, where eyes got rounder and cuter with the time.

It’s not even Comic Lemon People that made its wake. While Lemon People might the one that’s on the tongue of most Westerners when talking about lolicon serial comics, Manga Burikko was its direct rival. Not only did it coin the term otaku, but its main editor Ouzuke Eiji wanted to produce shoujo manga, or girls’ comics, for boys. He called this New-Wave shoujo manga. His influence, as well as the whole era’s, is vividly felt in the 1990’s shows. Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon is probably the most prominent example of this alongside Magic Knight Rayearth. In truth, the whole movement was well under within animation and comic industry in Japan in the mid-1970’s with Majokko Megu-chan being an early magical girl show that was prominently aimed at boys, much like Cutie Honey ended up being. By the 1990’s, lolicon as a style and aesthetics had become the mainstream visual flavour and style. This continues to this day, hence why moe was needed to surface as a specific and direct continuation. Historically speaking, lolicon and bishoujo fell under the same overall umbrella, with both having some differences but exactly the same aim in visuals.

I had two covers to choose from for Manga Burikko my archives, and this was the one that most wouldn’t find all that objectionable

It wasn’t just these two aforementioned comics; lolicon and loli was quite honestly everywhere with major companies and major magazines advertising and selling products proudly labeling their products with lolicon. This wasn’t about the porn, but again the style. Major players like Uchiyama Aki were publishing in standard comic magazines aimed at both boys and girls all the while he was working on adult magazines. He was publishing clearly labelled lolicon comic in same magazine as Ozaku Tezuka, and they were both doing characters that fit the same exact aesthetic description.

As you’ve probably surmised, lolita complex in Japan is very, very different from what it is considered as in North America and Europe. However, that definition crept into Japanese mindset as well in the late 1980’s and was more or less set in stone in the 1990’s, when the term mostly vanished from the common use. Perhaps the most commonly cited incident that put a negative tone on the term and its proper surroundings is Tsutomu Miyazaki kidnappings, where he kidnapped young girls, murdered them and not just raped their corpses, but also ate them. Moral panic is caused by lesser things, though Tokyo High Court ruled that he acted on his sexual fantasies rather, which of course was directly linked to his hobby as an otaku. The cultural backlash was understandable, but perhaps it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Discussion about loli and lolicon in Japanese context, in even Japan, does not consider its proper place as a mainstream style and only applies the bastardised understanding of it, partly influenced by the Western misconceptions, party by the intentional obfuscation and and partly by sheer misunderstanding. It is no wonder the term has different application nowadays, even when the whole modern Japanese comic and cartoon culture stemmed from it.

You may argue that language changes and whatever arguments for non-sexual use for loli or lolicon once existed doesn’t matter. Language may change, but its historical context should not. To use an example, the Finnish word neekeri is a direct loanword of nigger, but it had none of the negative connotations to it until the American negative connotations were associated with it. Before that, it was another normal way to name black people. However, with new generations fretting the term and its origin, censorship has forced books to remove the term and even candies change name. There is a chocolate pastry filled with cream that used to be called Nigger’s Kiss, but nowadays it has removed all branding from this and renamed itself as Brunberg’s Kiss. The past generations have demonized what was harmless word and such it is viewed as one, even in its proper historical context.

The point really being that I was making is if we lose first-hand information sources, we might as well rely on hearsay. However, when a historian has first hand information, recollections from an era from an independent person, it is a treasure of information that can be compared and contrasted to what is known from the era either from other first-hand sources or official records. However, when it comes to popular culture movements and events, official records are always dubious at best, unreliable at worst. That is why a place like sadpanda was such a treasure trove, because it contained not only author’s own works from forty years ago, but also serial comic magazines and self-published works, filled with fanart, letters, opinion pieces and news on politics and events that affected the pop-culture of the time. These sources are imperative to understand not just the lolicon scene we’ve been talking about, but the whole comic and animation culture of the time. That is only one view point, reading newspaper magazines and other sources is as important as well. Thus, losing one of them, any of them, will impact on how later generations are able to understand history. History just doesn’t happen; it a never ending movement forward. Most of what I’ve said about in this post has been by going through era specific first and second hand sources, some of which were on sadpanda.

Human history is fragmented at best. At worst, it is a puzzle that has lost an amount of its pieces. We should aim to keep every bit of history safe, even if we object to them. A statue of a South State’s general should be left as it is, to remind people that there is history and that it is a complex mess of human actions and perspectives. We should not allow destruction of any kind of resource, statue, book or whatnot, to be destroyed simply because it might offend sensibilities or it simply doesn’t fit modern culture. The moment humanity decides to ignore this in favour of some sort of one truth above all, history creeps toward its death. History is a tapestry painted with fine tipped brushes of endless shades, not with broad bristles in primary colours. Those who forget history are bound to repeat it may be an old saying, but it is a saying that will get repeated down the line, if people continue to be Brutus to history’s Caesar.

The Burning of Digital Alexandria (And Its Resurrection)

At this point, most people who are in any part of pop-culture scene regarding games or Japanese cartoons probably has already heard of Exhentai, that lovingly nicknamed sadpanda due to its front page showing a sad panda if you didn’t have an account and knew how to log in. Not that it matters at this point if you did, if we’re honest. The site died while I was finalising this post. For those who weren’t in the know, Exhentai was the backside of the more open E-Hentai galleries, containing very much all the most objectionable content you can imagine a comic creator thinking up. However, the porn and how it was represented was secondary at best with sadpanda, as throughout its existence it became a repository of fandom history, containing material from 1970’s to modern day releases, archiving millions of pages of thoughts, art and moments from specific eras. That what Exhentai ultimately became; a repository of pop-cultural history from the fans’ points of views.

Should’ve probably opened with this, but most of the links here are better opened outside workplace.

I have talked to some extent about scanning and archiving, and I’ve yet to finish that series. However, sadpanda dying in itself is nothing new, and the site was not the first of its kind. It won’t be the last either, but with its demise we will lose large chunks of history to bitspace. It was only a matter of time when the site be taken down, either though copyright infringement or because wherever the servers resided had laws changed. In this case, it was the latter. The servers resided in the Netherlands, and the owner of the site cited this specific law for his reasoning. Well that, and the rumour that some unsavory people decided to inform the police about sadpanda and its owner as a sort of joke. If this is true, a joke cost the world its Digital Alexandria of Fandom. Well, that’s not all that true either. Some reports say that the admin’s ISP lied to him in order to get the site pulled down. Whatever the reason is, we’re at an end of an era.

The whole argument of the drawn porn being illegal or whatnot, but that is beside the point. Hell, I’ll argue that isn’t even a point. Piracy worked a tool of archival here, allowing each of those blips to be archived. Certainly it would be nice to be able to purchase these books from somewhere, but trying to get a hold of an obscure artbook that was self-published in a comic convention in 1986 is rather step above the normal difficulty most people want to face. There’s a language barrier, budget, shipping, and these two are just the start. They’re the two big ones, and it just spirals from there to shipping issues, legislation, seller behaviour and so on and so on. You would also need some sort of resource to rely on for information what to look for, a some sort of library you could check information on and see the contents. There are optional sites that give you the raw information, like Doujinshi.org, but these sites don’t have the full contents of the works; they avoid archiving in of themselves. Piracy is really the necessary evil here.

Twelve years. Thousands of individuals contributing. The amount of data lost is insane to think about. Artists lost to history, only to be remembered people who lived through that era themselves. That is such a niche group that it makes me shudder to think that people who once were major names, if just for few respectable years, will be lost if mirrors, backups and dumps were not successful. Take the two names this blog has talked frequently; Rei Aran and Hariken Ryu. Aran was the original creator of Fight! Iczer-1 and nobody in the Western shores remembers him. Hariken Ryu, the creator of the most influential space kung-fu girl who nobody outside niche Japanese people remember. When these people are gone, and some of them are pressing over sixty at this point, and their memories and works go unrecorded, all the original pages lost for whatever reason, corporations owning the publishing rights slowly forgetting they ever had them, comics that simply can’t be published nowadays due to them infringing copyrights, modern sensibilities or whatever stupid reason you can think of, we will never have those back.

I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.

It is a coincidence Rutger Hauer passes away the other, but his monologue as Roy Batty at the end of Blade Runner is fitting. Exhentai was a gallery you would not believe. The content it held was free of prejudice and restrictions, with more people coming together than apart. Funny enough, porn and archival bring people together like no other. Most of that is now gone, and will be gone when E-Hentai Galleries will eventually be taken down. Even then, E-Hentai is the weaker, much more subdued than its darker coloured sibling. I guess this is my less than subtle plea to archive, archive and archive some more. It would be easy to say that this isn’t an important part of human history, that this doesn’t matter. They were just pictures and pictures are being made all the time. In reality, every moment in human history is precious. Whenever a scholar years down the line tries to find sources for what happened during a specific time within a fandom, they could have had a source like Exhentai to bask upon; first hand sources of recollections and images to rely on.

Perhaps it is disingenuous of me to say that piracy of this level and scale is completely justified for the sake of archival it achieved. Perhaps its even sick to some to think that someone could feel loss over historical materials when it ends up being mostly porn. Well, we still marvel those dick signs from Ancient Rome and naked statues and potteries full of nudity from the Antique. Even heart shaped pupils have made a comeback to modern era. All of it is still history.

Something else will come along, either a replacement or something else that fills the niche. There is a demand for it, and it is human nature to fulfill a demand of this kind. Thanks sadpanda, you’ll be missed, even when your more safer option will live on, for now.

….

Not a day later, history is not so much lost as I thought.

Thought that might be an early celebration, seeing images are easily faked and the icon here is an empty folder. There’s no proof in itself that its true. Take that as a grain salt.

However, there is something with more to it; a project to resurrect whatever was lost has already sprung up; The Library of Exhentai. To quote; Since the untimely demise of Exhentai is upon us, it has been decided that it would be best to preserve the efforts of tens of thousands of uploaders by creating a somewhat cohesive archival effort, from the scraps of what has been retrieved. This is the Library of Exhentai. 

The historian in me is happy that these two probably will collide into a happy marriage, but the blogger in me laughs like a madman; for once I get on something relatively on time, only to come back and wish I had waited my usual time. Nevertheless, this is yet another fine example of global world history being on the mind of people and to what we compare things to. We should not forget history, no matter how we personally feel about it. Preservation is always the key, not destruction and forgetting.


2.8.2019 Update

Sapdanda’s back. According to Tenboro, the admin, he has moved hosts, which he was able to do transfer stuff around. Much like most people, I’m getting information second hand at best, but seeing how Exhentai just popped back and admin hopes this can be a permanent solution of sorts. If you’re a user, you should expect stability in the future and upgrades to the site.

Well then, popular culture history has been preserved, after all. Nevertheless, if there’s something people should’ve learned something about this, it is that online archives may get hit. My recommendation? Either use SSD drives or M-Discs and archive stuff on your shelf.